UNR moves forward with parking garage in Gateway; proposed skybridge faces approval hurdle

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The historic Mack house, which has been bought by the Krug family, moves to its new Plumas Street location in Reno on June 21, 2020. Reno Gazette Journal

More parking, and possibly a skybridge connecting it to campus, is coming soon to the University of Nevada, Reno.   

Construction will start in a few months on a $33 million parking garage on the south end of campus.

A proposed skyway bridge from the parking lot to campus still needs permit approval.  

Read more:  8 homes in UNR’s historic Gateway District to be razed before the end of the year

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The parking garage and skybridge are the first projects planned for what is called the Gateway District, an extension of UNR’s campus that borders between Evans Avenue and Ninth and Virginia streets.

Over the last year, UNR has leveled most of the area after a lengthy and debated process to relocate or demolish homes that were built between the 1890s and 1970s.

Garage to provide parking to south campus

The new seven-story parking garage will have 800 spaces and will likely be a money maker for the college.

Annually UNR issues 10,000 parking permits. With expected student and faculty growth, UNR said it will need more parking and most of the available parking is on the north end of campus.

Most of the construction costs will come from money UNR makes from parking permit sales. Parking fees range from $60 to more than $700 a year.

Construction of the 250,000-square foot garage is estimated to be completed by spring 2022.

Of the 814 spaces, 40 will be hourly, 17 will be disabled parking and there will be spots for electric vehicles and motorcycles.

It’s just one of the plans UNR has for the area that is part of the growing school’s master plan.

UNR said it has dubbed the area the University Gateway and it will transform into a “vibrant retail-and academic-oriented neighborhood center.”

Also planned for the area is a business building and a life sciences lab building.  

Skyway bridge 

The open-air and covered bridge will span across Ninth Street and link to campus ending about 150 feet from the front of Morrill Hall.

UNR said it’s a way to provide safety from the street and is also being built for people with disabilities who may have trouble with the uphill walk to campus from that area

The bridge still needs a special use permit which has been debated and still faces hurdles including if the walkway can bypass the city’s design approval process to get a permit to build. 

A way around the review process is being considered by the Reno City Council at a July meeting. Up for consideration is amending the review process to exempt UNR’s skyway from approval by a design committee because the bridge is smaller than casino walkways and is not in the downtown area

UNR has argued that the master plan included this area of town and its development was approved by the city in 2014.  

UNR Executive Director of External Relations Heidi Gansert said this walkway is critical to providing access for people with disabilities.   

“We need to have a way for our students, faculty and staff to move between the main campus and the Gateway and this bridge is the only way they can do it,” Gansert said.  

The skybridge isn’t a welcome addition to some including Scenic Nevada Director Lori Wray.

Scenic Nevada is a 20-year-old nonprofit that is most recognized for its fight to limit construction of new billboards.

“We think it’s in the wrong location,” Wray said, adding that the design is in sharp contrast to Morrill Hall.

“It’s intrusive and doesn’t fit with the setting,” Wray said. “We think it’s a distraction.”

She said she wants the skyway to go to a design committee and to consider other options.

“We feel like it needs more public scrutiny from the design professionals in town,” she said.

Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal

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