Jacobs Entertainment continues to grow its sizable — and at times controversial — downtown Reno real estate portfolio with the purchase of more old motel properties.
The Sands Regency hotel-casino owner and Reno Neon Line District developer bought the Rancho Sierra Motel in a deal involving three downtown Reno parcels on Sept. 19, according to records obtained from Washoe County. All three parcels were sold by Bajwa Properties LLC.
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The $10.5 million sale involved three adjacent buildings totaling 63 units:
- 411 W. Fourth St.: Built in 1952, the 10,174-square-foot building has 32 units.
- 0 W. Fourth St.: Built in 1966, the 6,000-square-foot building has 17 units.
- 435 Nevada St.: Built in 1971, the 7,400-square-foot building has 14 units.
The Reno Gazette Journal has reached out to Jacobs Entertainment regarding its plans for the three properties.
The Rancho Sierra purchases are the latest in a downtown Reno property acquisition spree by Jacobs Entertainment that started in 2017. CEO Jeff Jacobs described the purchases as part of an ambitious project to redevelop the West Fourth Street corridor into a new bustling attraction that has been since dubbed as the Reno Neon Line District.
Jacobs envisions the project as a work-live-play destination that features a mix of residential and commercial development as well as entertainment and tourism attractions.
“We want to create an arts and entertainment district so people can come from the Bay Area and spend some money in Reno,” Jacobs told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2019. “My goal is to have people, families and out-of-towners walk up and down West Fourth Street and be comfortable.”
The project started raising concerns, however, after Jacobs Entertainment started tearing down several of the motels that it purchased as part of the Reno Neon Line project without a ready replacement.
Jacobs called the demolitions necessary, adding that the properties were blighted and not fit for people to live in. Jacobs added that his company provided assistance to tenants to find new rentals.
Critics, meanwhile, said that the destruction of the old motels took out hundreds of housing units that served as de facto affordable housing at a time of skyrocketing home prices and record rents. Residents at the lower end of the economic ladder have been hit especially hard by Reno’s housing affordability crisis as rising housing costs significantly outpaced wages.
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The project also started receiving criticism after development slowed, which Jacobs attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the project’s fiercest critics, Reno City ouncil member Jenny Brekhus, slammed what she considered the lack of progress on the project earlier this year.
“The only economic development going on here is for Mr. Jacobs’ bottom line,” Brekhus said at the time. “I’ve seen Mr. Jacobs continue to tear down property and build nothing.”
City Manager Doug Thornley also was embroiled in the controversy surrounding the project after Brekhus accused the city official of being in the developer’s pocket, which Thornley strongly denied. The accusation garnered strong pushback from several council members and Mayor Hillary Schieve.
“The assumption from Councilwoman Brekhus is completely inappropriate,” Schieve said. “I want to make that very, very clear.”
Since acquiring its string of properties, Jacobs Entertainment has installed several Burning Man sculptures and broke ground on a new 60-unit apartment project. Jacobs is also in the midst of a major $300 million remodel of the Sands Regency hotel-casino, which will eventually be rebranded once finished, according to the CEO.
Jacobs proposed earlier this year to offer up to three of his parcels on West Third Street for a workforce housing project with up to 1,000 units. Jacobs, however, added that such a project would require “skin in the game” from the city of Reno and should be spearheaded by the Reno Housing Authority.
The proposal, which could cost $300 million based on a Reno Gazette Journal analysis, has yet to see significant progress.
Jason Hidalgo covers business and technology for the Reno Gazette Journal, and also reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Like this content? Support local journalism with an RGJ digital subscription.