In the Middle of a Buying Spree
HBM, with a showroom filled with decades old technological equipment, could soon be swept up in the Jacobs Entertainment buying spree, as the Colorado-based gaming company buys up motels, old stores and lots in and around the west side of 4th street in downtown Reno. This has caused concern of displacements and worsening the affordable housing crisis, which Foote understands.
“They bought the property, wanted to ‘improve the neighborhood,’” Foote told Our Town Reno during a recent interview. “His perception of improving the neighborhood was getting rid of those motels,” he said of Jeff Jacobs the company’s CEO. “Does he have a specific responsibility to replace those residential dwellings If he makes representations and promises to do so then probably, but … I don't know that the city has the purview or wherewithal to force somebody to build something. So then it's a matter of some persuasion.”
Foote says he himself has been given an offer to sell, but that as is the case for the general Jacobs plan, the process remains shrouded in uncertainty. “Even with my own building they say, we may be interested in acquiring it at some point in time. But then they made an unserious offer and they have not been responsive to my reply to them,” he said.
A Future of History or Low Income Housing or Neither?
Foote talked about what he described as an impossible task to both preserve history and low income housing.
“The properties on the West Street, Arlington block, were very marginally historical at all and the ones that maybe had some architectural appeal would have had to have so much money poured into them to get them to be of a presentable nature. And then you have those two competing forces of low income housing in historic preservation because if you're going to preserve it historically, you're going to pour a bunch of money into it and then you can possibly have it affordable for somebody with low income. So those are actually opposing forces,” he said.
Foote, though, doesn’t see too many of the bulldozed properties as having much historical value, contrary to vocal preservationists.
“The cinder block buildings have no architectural appeal in particular,” he said. “And then you have a scale, where it's like if there's a historical nature to sort of the 1950s motel culture if you will, there's some stuff on like East Fourth street that has a more open and architecturally appealing, sort of some art deco kind of elements and those types of things, then they can make a move to try and encourage the ownership to preserve it without them saying, ‘hey, we want to buy this or we want you to, to improve it so much that you're going to end up kicking people out there, living there now,’” he said of possible city of Reno strategies going forward.
In the Dark about the Jacobs Downtown Expansion
Foote said he doesn’t mind the change that’s happening, for himself or his business. He says some people always wanted to avoid certain parts of Reno, including where his business now stands, but that, evidently, he never shared those feelings. However, as others in Reno, he says he remains in the dark as to what exactly Jacobs Entertainment is planning to do with all its lots.
“I think the primary issue I have is that they seem to be fairly secretive as to what their real intention is,” he said. “Whether I agree with it or not doesn't really make any difference… There's some elements of public relations that I think they lack. They're fairly casual in terms of ‘we've got some great plans but we can't reveal them as of yet.’”
One plan Jacobs is pushing for he has disagreed with is the company’s bid to take over an alley that runs on the side of his store.
The Price Isn’t Right Yet
When we met him recently, Foote said a sale of his location to Jacobs was not happening yet.
“It's one of those cases, that for the right price…. yes. And then it's a matter of what sort of commercial building can be found of a comparable size, location, etc…. that would make sense to move the business to…”
Location is not that important though for Foote, at this point, which also means he isn’t bothered by everything that’s happening around it.
“We're not a tourist business, we're not necessarily that much of a retail business,” he said. “We do some retail sales, but it's for people that find us and 80% of our business, we go to our client. So where we're at ….doesn't really make that much difference to our business,” he said.