Reno has more than its share of bad luck and press lately. Consider the City’s unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, officially hovering at 13.6% with no dramatic trending upward in site. Casino gaming revenue has taken a continuous nose dive during a losing streak of 11 years of continual decline in tourism. Even our own local paper has proclaimed the possibility of Reno being on track to becoming the “Detroit of the West”.
With all this negative news piling on our collective psyches on a daily basis, one has to wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to live here – let alone vacation or own a second home in the Reno-Tahoe region.
I’m here to tell you – there are more reasons than you can easily count, and the proof is in those who are taking residence in our downtown’s currently troubled economic core.
One of Reno’s newest, and brightest projects is without question The Montage. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that the project was a client of mine until its transfer back to the bank. The vision of one man, Fernando Leal, built the Montage from a shell of an empty casino into Reno’s crown jewel of condominium developments. Today it stands on the skyline, a proud reminder of the potential of Reno to become a gentrified urban center, and not just a “second-rate Vegas” tourism attraction.
Like all clients, I feel a vested interest in seeing them to long-term success – and the Montage is certainly on top of that list. Built during the worst financial climate imaginable, the project barely had the opportunity to begin reaching into the market before its untimely return to funding sources. And yet… that has not stopped new residents from securing their new home with a cash payment, and turning the building into a living, thriving community of new owners and neighbors.
Why, you might ask, would anyone want to take a risk in this economy to live in a building in downtown Reno? Just ask the residents, and be prepared for an answer as long as you have time to listen.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, my business partner Mike Van Houten (author of Reno’s #1 Guide Downtownmakeover.com) and I took an hour of time to visit with two of Montage’s earliest residents – Scott Opperman and Vinnie Papa. Both of these professionals are from the northern California area, a mere 3 hour drive from the Montage. Both literally begin to shine when you ask them about their experience in Reno at The Montage.
“It’s the vibe”, Opperman enthusiastically confirms. “The first year was a little strange at first with only 32 of us in the building, but we quickly became family. Now I think there are more than 70 in the building. We walk everywhere – to shows, restaurants, anything you want. People don’t realize how much is going on here. There’s always something happening. It’s quiet – but not too quiet. We’re surrounded by neighbors, but only hear them when we meet outside on the balcony.” Opperman also noted his enthusiasm to relocate to Reno. “If I didn’t have a stable job that I love in California, and I could find a position here in Reno, I’d consider moving here permanently.”
“The people are friendlier”, notes Papa. “Even if you go for a burger, people talk to you. You don’t get that in a city like San Francisco. The Riverwalk, The Palladio – there are a lot of people living here now. You don’t need parking – we can walk anywhere we want within 10 minutes of the front door.” Papa continued to talk about his appreciation of Reno’s ongoing events calendar. “You have everything right downtown, which is why we chose this building as opposed to Vegas or other properties. New Years last year was phenomenal. You felt like you could touch the fireworks – literally. Throughout the summer, you can open your balcony door and hear the music from any of the events that take place downtown – it’s just great.”
Both Montage residents support the casinos downtown. “Reno’s casinos are so much better than any of the Indian Gaming developments in California. Once you’re done gambling, there’s nothing really left to do but get in your car and drive back home” notes Papa. “The properties here are so much nicer, and there are so many more choices, if you like to gamble, there’s really no comparison.”
On that perfectly upbeat note, we ended the interview. On cue, the sun beginning to peak out of the rain clouds. Downtown Reno looked renewed from the 21st floor of The Montage, with a back drop of mountain ranges framing the view. And what a view it is. To really understand the level of sophisticated, functional design at The Montage, take a few moments to review photos of some of the interiors designed by the talented team at Aspen Leaf Interiors.
There are other stories in downtown Reno now, new stories to be told from new residents. The future of the City is definitely undergoing radical change – and from my perspective, change for the better.
Why write about this development now in downtown Reno? Because Reno is changing for the better – and it’s time to get the message out through the residents who know it best, and appreciate it the most. We’re diversifying our economic base, and we’re building new communities of urban dwellers in the core of our downtown. Reno’s negative perception will change in time; with the reality of Reno’s ideal lifestyle, living options, and vibe remains a story yet to be fully appreciated.