Doodling while Waiting for Information
The lack of information surrounding Reno’s emptied out lots owned by Colorado-based Jacobs Entertainment has led to many guessing games, including wild goose chases over the company’s similarly growing number of trademark acquisitions.
What are We Talking About Exactly?
Fountain District? But wait could it be the Reno Eye with a Ferris wheel? Or the Glow District with some sort of revitalization of decapitated motel signs? We’ve heard many theories, from the possibility of mixing in more casinos with senior housing to ensure disability and social security checks go straight to slot machines, or simply leaving the lots empty, waiting for the next economic upswing.
Resistance and Disputes
This has coincided with some owners resisting to sell, waiting for higher prices, while there have also been apparent disputes with a still not moved business over an alleyway, new codes imposed on motels and a restaurant owner angry she is now operating within an apocalyptic dust bowl of sorts.
There were tears and hugs recently as Jacobs Entertainment announced the 46-room Crest Inn would … gasp not be demolished …. but instead converted into the new Renova Flats.
A Renova Going on?
“The name Renova comes from the combination of ‘Reno’ and the latin word for new, ‘nova.’ It is our hope to bring something completely new and vibrant, yet still have it stay true to Reno’s spirit and contribute to Reno’s growth,” Jeff Jacobs was quoted as saying in a Jacobs Entertainment press release marking that occasion.
Some on the Reno Reddit thread thought that sounded too much like a pharmaceutical product with way too many disclaimers.
“The renovations will be done by Reno Real Estate Development, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jacobs Entertainment, Inc,” the press release continued, indicating yet another name acquisition.
A Mission to Provide?
“Renova Flats is another component of our mission to provide higher quality living conditions to the area,” Jonathan Boulware, vice president of Nevada operations for Jacobs was quoted as saying in the same press release.
Owing to his last name starting with B last we checked he was first on the list of the downtownreno.org Board of Directors list.
“We also anticipate announcing our plans for additional green space as well as streetscape for West 4th St. before the end of the year,” Boulware said. Green space? We are now dancing by the countless fenced in dusty lots, full of environmental anticipation and glee.
We were offered an interview by the Abbi Agency with a former Crest Inn resident but she seemed petrified during the interview. Was she afraid she would say the wrong thing jeopardizing what she may have been offered as relocation assistance?, our reporters wondered.
Who is Listening to Who?
At the same event (as above) at the yet unsold Desert Rose Inn, Mayor Hillary Schieve got a tv camera interview but then chatted in the background and didn’t seem to look at or listen to any of the motel residents, who said they felt afraid their homes, which is a motel room, would be the next to go. This led to some angry comments on our Facebook page. Could she not bear to listen to the testimony of long term motel residents who feared for their future?
So in the absence of knowing what Jacobs Entertainment is planning with all its empty lots, all we can look into is some of the company’s vast network of connections, not surprising since it already operates the Sands Regency Casino Hotel and the Gold Dust West Casino, but still impressive in scope and influence.
The Mayor’s close friend and ally Jessica Sferrazza (“Madam Clerk, in the interest of full transparency I am disclosing the fact that I have a personal relationship with Jessica Sferrazza,” Schieve says at many Reno City Council meetings, including when a Jacobs-related plan is discussed) is a local lobbyist who has worked for Jacobs Entertainment through her company JESSCONVLLC.
The daughter of former long time mayor turned judge Pete Sferrazza, was blocked from running in the 2014 mayoral race herself when the Nevada Supreme Court sided in favor of a lawsuit by erstwhile candidate Eddie Lorton over termed out council members. Last we checked, Sferrazza’s Facebook page for her aborted mayoral campaign run was still alive with an endorsement for Schieve and the recurring use of the #Renorevival hashtag.
From the Abbi Agency to Former Managers and Motel Residents
Abbi Whitaker, the president and founder of the Abbi Agency was Schieve's chief campaign consultant during her 2014 bid for mayor and helped her with her successful 2018 re-election bid as well. Jacobs Entertainment has also been an Abbi Agency client.
Former motel managers working for motels now bought out and former residents have been hired as consultants, movers, influencers, relocation helpers, janitors, etc… the list is long.
Many Questions and Links, Few Answers
The motel demolitions have led to relocations and displacements, creating more people in need of housing, since motels are often a last resort or a first resort in terms of shelter.
Jacobs Entertainment has also purchased land from the Reno Housing Authority in exchange for donations, and they’ve donated to nonprofits also offering a larger pledge in case of equal community fundraising. A private-public partnership between Jacobs and the Housing Authority is reported to have led to a condo being used to house a graduate of the city’s much touted Reno Works program. Those occasions were marked by glowing initial media coverage, but where are the follow up stories?
As we searched the Internet for connections, we also doodled on a napkin some of the spheres of influence we were able to identify, which we found impressive even for a developer/ casino operator, while looking out at all the empty lots, thinking of the recently displaced, and sensing the fear of those whose motel rooms may soon vanish as well.