Many areas of Reno, such as Midtown, Wells District, and Virginia Street set the city’s vibrant style. However, the Fourth Street strip is in the shadows: it is known for vandalism, homelessness and prostitution. But as Molly Moser reports, business owners on the block aren’t giving up—they’re determined to bring more people to the street by revitalizing it in creative ways.
The City of Reno sponsored a block party in August to celebrate the area’s 100th anniversary. The street has a historical background as it used to be a part of U.S. Highway 40, a road crossing the country in the mid 1920s. Many businesses received a certificate for the event. However, those who are involved with the campaign are on their own—the group in the area seems to be the only community determined to bring Fourth Street alive.
On the day of the celebration, Eric Brooks, the organizer of the Positively 4th Street movement, told KTVN Channel 2 News the city is doing all that they can but the community is going to help out, and do what they can do to move the solution along. City officials refused to respond to interview requests for this report.
Recently, the Regional Transportation Commission hosted an open house to the public to share new designs and plans for the Fourth Street/Prater Way History Project, partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno. The project was initiated by the RTC in 2011 to integrate the history of Fourth Street and Prater Way into improvement plans for the corridor. Learn more about them here.
Fourth Street is not completely silent, but unlike Midtown and Virginia Street, it’s lacking some excitement: not very many people are seen walking down the street. There are some buildings that sit vacant and the homeless shelter is constantly active.
Some of the businesses on the block describe the challenges they face on this corridor: a very bad reputation, namely the pervasiveness of vandalism, lack of parking, homelessness, theft, prostitution.
The businesses owners on the block are involved in a campaign called Positively Fourth Street. They meet together and brainstorm ideas on how to turn around the negative aspect of the street. This has been going on for years.
Under the Rose Brewery is bringing Fourth Street handcrafted beer and a stylish bar as a new business on the street. As the brewery is under construction, owner Scott Emond’s goal is to bring positive force within the Fourth Street community.
Even though the bar is still under construction, Emond hosts activity nights FOR people to interact with his business, especially on Sunday nights when the area is calmer.
“We’re gonna do kind of an interactive Brew Day where people get to have their input and we do a little pilot batch and bocce league or a tournament,” Emond said. “We’ll see how that goes. Just little things to drive people down here and to get them down here to realize that Fourth Street is—if not already, a cool little place.”
Emond says convincing people the neighborhood is safe is one of his main challenges.
“One of the uphill battles for this company is to get people down here. It’s Fourth Street. It’s got a very negative perception and we’re battling against that in terms of the homeless to people thinking it’s dangerous.”
Emond is one of several businessmen involved with the Positively Fourth Street campaign.
The City of Reno sponsored a block party in August to celebrate the area’s 100th anniversary. The street has a historical background as it used to be a part of U.S. Highway 40, a road crossing the country in the mid 1920s.
John Tamayo’s business, Bodega Nightclub is a culturally diverse lounge on Fourth Street. He’s been in business for almost a year and is also involved in the Positively Fourth Street campaign. He is one of the business owners that received a certificate from the block party festival.
“I think the City themselves are starting to realize that this corridor could be a very, very liberative business stretch. Not just for downtown but for the entire city,” Tamayo said. “It’s going to draw more attention it’s going draw more attention to business people who want to do more business here. More so now, we have a little taste from the city and more so now we need to really come together.”
One of the oldest businesses on Fourth Street also hopes they can contribute to the movement in some way, even though they might not target a younger audience such as Tamayo’s and Emond’s businesses. Anchor Auctions has been on the corridor for about 15 years, holding auction consignments of a variety of items.
Although the business is successful, owner Connie Pilliod still faces the challenges that Fourth Street brings.
“If there was a way to take the negativity away from just the term Fourth Street, it’s still there. I don’t think it’s as bad but there’s not (many) people sending people to Fourth Street. Maybe just make it more positive for everybody and more positive things moving here.
“I guess the only thing that as a whole somebody could do is try to take the negative out of the—just the way people say it, ‘Oh, oh, you’re on Fourth Street’—don’t say that anymore. Say, ‘I’m on Fourth Street!’” she said.
Some residents in Reno, especially the younger college crowd, still find Fourth Street to be an unsafe place to relax. University of Nevada student Anders Herzberg would rather make Fourth Street a last minute travel route because of vandalism and prostitution.
“Well, given the reputation, it’s one of those places that I make a point of avoiding,” he said. “Just because there are certain elements that like to congregate around downtown and those are unsavory characters. So I tried to avoid unsavory characters.”
An area in Reno such as Midtown is known for its diversity and vibrancy. It was even mentioned in a New York Times story in October. Some people think that Fourth Street could become the next Midtown—but Bodega’s John Tamayo thinks differently.
“People are already talking about this area being the next Midtown but I think it’s going to surpass Midtown,” Tamayo said. “Not that it’s a competition but the way people are looking at this stretch or this corridor it’s finally happening.”
Under the Rose Brewery’s Scott Emond is confident that Fourth Street will evolve just like MidTown within the next couple of years.
“Midtown used to be seen as a scuzzy area, tattoo parlors and bars,” Emond said. “And in the last 5 years that area has changed drastically. And we’re looking to make the same kind of changes in our own way over the course of long-term. Anywhere in two to ten years. This is not a weekend project for us; this is my livelihood.”
Recently, the Regional Transportation Commission hosted an open house to the public to share new designs and plans for the Fourth Street/Prater Way History Project, partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno. The project was initiated by the RTC in 2011 to integrate the history of Fourth Street and Prater Way into improvement plans for the corridor.
Fourth street seems to be bare and worn around the fringes these days. Traffic passes through the corridor quite often but that’s all it’s for: just to cruise by. Only one or two people are seen strolling down the beat-down sidewalks, and the homeless center is the only packed place in the desolate area.
But businessmen such as Emond, Tamayo and Pilliod are hard workers and strive to save Fourth Street by offering the community safety, entertainment and an elegant history.