Douglas, Tahoe buzz with redevelopment work |

Douglas, Tahoe buzz with redevelopment work

John Seelmeyer

Redevelopment projects around Douglas County and Lake Tahoe these days range from the gigantic a $420 million convention center at South Lake Tahoe to medium-sized efforts that help spur the retail developments just south of Carson City.

Coming soon, planners say, are smaller projects to continue the revitalization of commercial districts in Gardnerville and Minden.

Redevelopment is such a big piece of the picture in the region, in fact, that the Business Council of Douglas County devoted the lion’s share of its 14th annual Critical Issues conference last week to the subject.

The biggest redevelopment project in the area is The Chateau at Heavenly Village, the convention center with two accompanying hotels that’s beginning to come out of the ground at South Lake Tahoe.

Lew Feldman, a South Lake Tahoe attorney who has been closely involved with redevelopment, noted planning for the convention center project began in 1994 and construction began 13 years later.

“Which in Tahoe time isn’t that bad,” he quipped.

The project, north across Highway 50 from the gondola that carries skiers up the slopes of Heavenly, required the assembly of 29 parcels of land most of them from willing sellers, the other few requiring eminent domain action.

Like other redevelopment projects in the region, The Chateau at Heavenly Village relies on tax-increment financing.

In that financing, local governments freeze the taxable values of land within a redevelopment district. They issue bonds to pay for improvements that will encourage development in the district. As property values rise, the increased tax collections are used to pay off the bonds.

The South Lake Tahoe project to be managed by RockResorts International LLC, a unit of Vail Resorts Inc. will bring 477 hotel rooms, a 50,000-square-foot convention center and about 56,000 square feet of retail space.

Retail has been a key element as well in redevelopment projects undertaken by the Douglas County government which has been hungry for sales-tax revenue.

The county used redevelopment district funding for infrastructure work such as roads to help spur the development of the complex of big-box retailers along Highway 395 near the Douglas County border with Carson City.

And in a couple of instances, the county has taken a more direct approach, using $27 million in redevelopment funds to subsidize land purchases by developers who otherwise couldn’t make projects pencil out, said Keith Ruben of R.O. Anderson Engineering, who helped create the Douglas County redevelopment program in the mid-1990s.

Those subsidies to retail developers are to be repaid from the increased tax revenues generated by the projects.

Redevelopment in Gardnerville and Minden will come on a much smaller scale as residents seek to maintain the small-town feel of the two communities.

Darin Dinsmore, a Truckee planner who has worked with the two towns, says their planning process has become a model for other towns throughout the Sierra.

He noted the planning in Minden has been unusual because it addresses subjects ranging from zoning to economic development to transportation all at once, rather than studying them piecemeal.

And he said a common element in the two town’s plans is a long-term approach to development and redevelopment.

“We don’t want to build buildings that will pencil for a 10-year pro-forma,” he said.


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