Bursting the Student Bubble
Thyne, 22, a transplant from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and new graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno, says many students live in their own bubble, unaware of some of the rapid transformations their host city is going through, including its traumatic lack of affordable housing.
"Like people who live in the Highlands (luxury student housing) will say 'oh my rent's going up for next year so I have to find somewhere else,' but it's not as dire as 'oh, I'm going to go live in the streets.' I think it really sucks a lot of these lower-income motels are being torn down to build more student housing. I mean I didn't even really understand it was such a big issue until we started talking to people about this," he said, looking back on the past semester during which he produced A Gentleman's Disagreement (watch below) with a team of classmates in a documentary class at the Reynolds School of Journalism.
A Story of Rapid Gentrification
Thyne himself has lived with several roommates as a student, meaning his rent has only been about $500 a month. He says he believes the Ponderosa hotel which goes for over $700 per month is overpriced. He sees no good sides in the ongoing battle between strip clubs and City Council, with vulnerable residents as "pawns."
"I think people always talk abstractly about gentrification, and I think that this is one of the most concrete storylines I've seen of that actually happening. It's sort of happens gradually over time and like suddenly Brooklyn is full of hipsters, but I feel like this City Council is trying to fast track Reno's gentrification," he said.
Working on the film changed Thyne's own perceptions of Midtown Reno, the entrance of which is now occupied by the threatened Wild Orchid and the many residents clinging onto sheltered life at the Ponderosa Hotel.
"I used to think that the Midtown district was so cool," Thyne said. "I mean it is like hip, and they have all the nice shops and they have Junkee's (Clothing Exchange), and Sup and the place where you can get ice cream sandwiches (Simple Ice Cream Sandwiches). But I think through all this I've learned that there's something sinister underlying it, where a lot of stuff's getting torn down. A lot of people are being displaced in order to ... I think the City Council wants Reno to be like hip, like a Californian town, but it's at the expense of a lot of people and their well-being."
What Does the Future Hold?
While the film itself goes into detail of the see-saw multi-front battle between Reno's strip clubs and members of the City Council, with the future of the Wild Orchid's location hanging in the balance, and residents of the Ponderosa Hotel seemingly caught in the gentrification winds, Thyne believes the outcome is inevitable.
"I think that a lot of people want downtown Reno to just turn into one big UNR campus and I think it's sort of heading that way," he said. "I mean as it stands now, I guess they are still seemingly going to kick the strip clubs out. I guess the Ponderosa residents will probably all have to leave because they can't afford their rent and I'm sure the Ponderosa will get torn down and turned into like Whole Foods or something," he concluded.
Interview with Our Town Reno in May 2018