Sixteen new businesses are preparing to call the Reno Midtown/Downtown area home. This may be a salubrious boost to the local economy, making the area more desirable, but it may also be the polar opposite to the people living in the community.
These may be exceptional businesses, but how do they cater to college students or people who are less economically stable? The new businesses are another step in what has been the increasing gentrification of the Midtown area. While revitalization of the local economy and the opportunity for locally-owned businesses to grow is an admirable goal, this progress can come at the price of alienating the community members who lack the financial means to patronize the area.
Gentrification sometimes comes attached with a negative stigma, but in some instances is more than necessary. There’s no reason that new businesses shouldn’t move into the area, but it’s the overall price increase that is the true problem. Most single-occupancy apartments cost anywhere between $600 – $800 a month, yet in some places you can find yourself spending almost $25 for a cocktail and an appetizer.
If these price points become the norm, individuals living off of low or fixed incomes will be pushed out of the area, both as residents and patrons.
Current and prospective residents are not the only groups affected by the Midtown’s rising costs. As evidenced by the fate of Lost City Farm, commercial establishments are not immune to the rising property costs of the area. The farm published a farewell address of sorts on its website shortly after it lost its lease, stating that “Times are changing and land values are on the rise. Our local economy is on an upswing which is great for many reasons, but unfortunately has forced us to turn a new page on Lost City Farm.”
The trend is one of sacrificing the diverse community of the area in hopes of making it more profitable.
Luckily, another staple of the Midtown area and the Reno arts community was able to avoid a similar fate. The Holland Project, the city’s only all-ages music and art space, was able to raise enough money to buy its current space and remain safe from future rent increases that could jeopardize its existence. In an interview with KUNR, Holland’s Executive Director Britt Curtis summarized the situation now facing startups in the area.
“That artists move into spaces because they can afford them and nobody else wants them and landlords are happy at that moment in time to have somebody pay something … and then people start coming to the neighborhood, and they see how cool their buildings actually are,” Curtis said. “And then all of sudden their value is up and they see dollar signs and it doesn’t make sense to keep those people that made the neighborhood what it was.”
Establishments like Lost City Farm and the Holland Project are more than spaces — they are hubs of creativity and interaction that give Midtown its sense of community and invite residents to participate in the betterment of their city. Without these spaces, we lose not only the valuable work of individuals seeking to lend their efforts to Reno’s revitalization, but we also lose the potential for others with big ideas but little capital to make an impact.
In no way should all of the services offered in Midtown cater to solely university students or low-income individuals, but they should not cater solely to the city’s top earners either. In order to have a cohesive relationship, retaining the neighborhood’s diversity needs to be of the utmost importance.
With recent efforts by our own student government to promote the collision of the Reno downtown area and the university population, the topic of affordability has failed to come up in discussion. There is more talk about development than there is of how students are actually supposed to afford to utilize the area after development.
The eclectic mix of high and low, trendy and divey, is a large part of what makes Midtown such a gem in our community. It is an area that, because of its diversity, can attract a wide variety of patrons and offer something for everyone to enjoy. But if certain groups are alienated because they can no longer afford to shop at retailers, or because their favorite business could no longer pay its rent, then the unique personality that originally made the area what it was will have been sacrificed for homogeneity in the name of capital gains.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .