Developer gambles $1B project on Reno’s tech boom

Jacobs Entertainment Corp. has started building the first phase of the Neon Line District, which eventually would include 2,000 residential units

Jul.July 21, 2019 04:00 PM
A rendering of Reno's Neon Line (Credit: Jacobs Entertainment)

A rendering of Reno’s Neon Line (Credit: Jacobs Entertainment)

A developer is betting $1 billion on the largest development ever in Reno, Nevada, as the city reduces its economic reliance on the gambling industry.

Jacobs Entertainment Corp. plans to transform a 20-block area on the west side of Downtown Reno into a residential and entertainment district called the Neon Line District.

Colorado-based Jacobs Entertainment, led by chairman and CEO Jeffrey Jacobs, is known locally for two gambling properties in Reno, the Gold Dust West Casino and the Sands Regency Casino. According to the company’s website, Jacobs developed a similar district in Cleveland, the Nautica Entertainment Complex, which has 2 million visitors a year.

The developer has already invested more than $100 million on site acquisitions for the megaproject, which will include 2,000 residential units, restaurants, retail stores and a hotel.

The project could take as long as seven years to build. The first phase is under way: Jacobs is building the Neon Line, a walkway that will extend half a mile and will feature rotating art installations.

While the scope of the Neon Line District development might be more appropriate for a city larger than Reno, which has a population of only 249,000, the city is going through some big changes that could have big rewards for such a project.

The employment base in Reno is shifting from low-wage casino jobs to higher-paying positions with technology companies. The median household income in Reno rose 9 percent in the 2012-2017 period to $52,106. But home prices have risen even faster as tech employment expands in the Reno area. According to the Washoe County Assessor, the median home-sale price in the first quarter was $400,000, reflecting a 63 percent rise over five years.

Apple opened a data center in 2014 in downtown Reno, and then Tesla opened a factory east of Reno at a cost of $5 billion. Google recently finished building a data center at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

Jacobs, too, might have plans to relocate closer to the billion-dollar project. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that he listed his nine-bedroom mansion in North Palm Beach in South Florida with an asking price of $42 million. [Wall Street Journal] – Mike Seemuth

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