Inside Reno City Council Chambers, July 6, 2016
The mayor's 'favorite artist' Rich VanGogh was disappointed by Hillary Schieve and the three other council members who were present on July 6, 2016, after they approved city funds to demolish two downtown Virginia street motels. The properties the motels now occupy will remain in the ownership of the mysterious group called the Northern Nevada Urban Development company.
The demolition approval, which took just seconds after more than 90 minutes of public comment, gave those against, including VanGogh, a heightened sense of loss and misguided priorities.
"They're going to use $230-thousand dollars. I am still totally opposed to it. I would much rather see that money go to ending blight in another way, not by tearing something down but by fixing something up."
VanGogh gave the example of the Art Deco historic district in Miami as an example to think about, with its saved 1920s, 30s and 40s structures .
"I know we can't compare these two things but if you look at all the mom and pop hotels on 4th street and you rehab them all as a set, that's a weird funky kind of architecture that we're known for, that's part of our shtick so I think they should fix them up and put that money to some other use," he said.
Councilman Oscar Delgado used the word "slumlords" to describe the developers, who are usually only identified as a group of 62 investors who bought several downtown properties and lots pre-recession. Real estate developer Ken Krater called them "mom and pop investors". Delgado said he would have saved other motels, but that these were on Virginia Street, which he called the main corridor essential to Reno.
Media reports usually indicate the group had plans to build a large mixed-use development, but it never happened. Their website has contact information and a tagline that reads "The Reno Renaissance".
Before the vote, activists spoke about keeping all opportunities for affordable housing intact and not helping developers with city money. Representatives of business interests and city staff spoke in favor of the demolition.