2009 Wells Ave. Clean Up Volunteers
Photo by Gene Russel
We are the Wells Addition Neighborhood Group and we call our neighborhood West of Wells (WOW) because it is west of Wells Avenue, however, we include the neighborhood east of Wells in many of our improvement projects. Our group started to come together in 2007 when the City of Reno hosted public meetings for input to overhaul the entire city master plan around "Transit Oriented Development" (TOD); a master plan concept that is centered around future anticipated mass transit routes and pedestrian movement rather than being focused on automobile dependence. The Wells Avenue Neighborhood Plan is a component of the city's TOD plan and was adopted by City Council in January 2008. The final product is a long needed document that addresses the needs of Reno's original working class neighborhood in the 21st century. Most important in the plan are architectural and design standards governing future development to ensure compatibility with existing historic homes.
The Wells Avenue Neighborhood was once a thriving community, with an electric trolley line, railroad and numerous locally owned small businesses. Some of the city's most beautiful homes were built here from the late 1890's through the 1940's. This was the heyday of the neighborhood. The 1960's brought the suburbs; not only to Reno, but across the nation. People outgrew their modest two bedroom brick bungalows and were lured to the expanding suburbs with their modern, electric kitchens, larger floor plans and two car attached garages. The old neighborhoods were abandoned and became rentals. Reliance on the automobile grew as the suburbs expanded further and further. The new air conditioned one-stop shopping malls lured consumers away from the park and walk shopping experience of Wells Avenue and Old Virginia Street. During this time, the Wells Addition was rezoned for high density infill development which resulted in widespread incompatible infill. Huge rectangular apartment buildings sprang up between quaint brick cottages, adding to the devastation caused by suburban migration. The reputation and proud legacy of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood declined for several decades.
Fast forward to the late 1990's and early 2000's. Young homeowners and renters who became fed up with suburban tract home conformity and freeway commutes began to rediscover the neighborhood. These urban pioneers bought and rented these old homes, met and formed friendships with the long term residents who had weathered the storm, and are now the members of the Wells Addition Neighborhood Group. We are a very diverse group, but share some common values. We value the location, history and architecture of the neighborhood and tend to reject the dullness and lifestyle that comes with suburban planned communities. We are more inclined to interact on a social level as the mere design of our homes dictates it. There are no front facing garages in which to pull one's automobile after a long day at work and walk directly into the house, avoiding any potential human contact. The residents of this neighborhood rarely have garages, and if they do, they are so old and small, they are full of lawnmowers, bicycles and gardening supplies. We run into each other outside as we travel from our cars to our homes, sit on our old porches and walk or bike to nearby stores, downtown and the river. This unavoidable neighborly contact has played a major role in the success of the neighborhood coming together to redefine itself.
The Wells Addition Neighborhood Group is proud to list the following accomplishments in our first two years as an organized group. Our success has been based on our ability to learn the processes of city government and form alliances with the proper departments, entities and individuals.
Neighborhood Watch: The group meets the second Tuesday of every month at El Cordero de Dios church at the corner of Wheeler and Crampton. We always have either a police officer, code enforcement officer, graffiti or drug enforcement officer or other representative present. We are committed to addressing and finding solutions to our problems.
Liquor Store Limits: Thanks to over a year of persistent efforts from the group and with the help of The Community Development Department and Claudia Hanson, there are new limits on the number of liquor stores allowed within the boundaries of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood Plan, as well as the requirement for a special use permit and public hearing for anyone who wants to open a liquor store. Small stores selling only liquor and drug paraphernalia began to multiply along Wells Avenue and the group sprang into action once the proliferation of these stores became evident.
New Sidewalks: After discovering that the neighborhood's World War II era crumbling sidewalks were still 15-25 years away from being replaced in the city's infrastructure plan, the neighborhood worked closely with the Public Works Department for a special assessment district for new sidewalks which were installed in the spring of 2009. The residents understood that the unsightly crumbling infrastructure added to the negative public opinion of the neighborhood. This process of creating a special assessment district was an eye opening process involving public hearings and a specific governmental process.
New Streetlights: The group approached the Public Works Department with reports of unusually dark streets and asked for a lighting survey. The City determined the neighborhood was in need of 18 additional streetlights in order to meet current lighting standards. Thirteen new lights were installed in 2009, adding to the safety of the neighborhood.
Roots for Wells Tree Project: 100 trees have been planted and 50 more are coming on April 24 to public property along residential streets. Grants were obtained from the Ward 3 Neighborhood Advisory Board to purchase the trees. The Roots for Wells Tree Project is in its second year and is overseen by the Urban Forestry Commission.
Historic Survey: The Wells Addition and surrounding area are historically and architecturally significant to the City of Reno. The City's Historic Plan provides a method of achieving historic and conservation district status by completing a survey of historic structures. A survey is currently underway, being done by the UNR Planning Club. The Wells Avenue Neighborhood will hopefully be designated Reno's second conservation district sometime in 2010 or 2011.
Neighborhood Cleanup: Our group held a massive neighborhood cleanup in 2009 with free dumping and assisted residents without vehicles to haul away mattresses, furniture, appliances and items such as unwanted bicycles and clothing that were donated to local charities.
Newsletter and Website: Our dynamic and talented group of residents created a newsletter and website to further promote our cause of fostering a sense of community pride and purpose in Reno's beautiful historic Wells Avenue Neighborhood.
Sign up now to receive our newsletter: Email email@example.com - and put "WOW, sign me up!" in the subject line, or contact us at 775-544-6744