Reno has always been a mixture of old and new. Something about the open spaces of the west seems to creep into each new development. Business and industrial parks spring up across the street from pasturelands. An industrial park travels over unusable land across a mountaintop. And one of the newest master planned communities, Damonte Ranch, is forming on almost 2,000 acres of a century-old cattle and alfalfa ranch and, for now, cattle still roam and alfalfa still grows; build-out is still set at 15 to 20 years under normal absorption rates.
The developers of the Damonte Ranch are the managing members of the Nevada Tri Partners, Inc. They represent three of the most prominent, award-winning builder/developers in northern Nevada and California. Tri Partners is comprised of three managing member entities: BDM Development, LLC, DiLoreto South Truckee Meadows, Inc. and Steamboat Creek Development, Inc. The principals are Wes Bailey, Ed McGah and Craig Dutton of Bailey McGah Homes, Perry DiLoreto and Thomas DiLoreto of DiLoreto Construction and Development, and Robert Lewis and Paul Curtis of Lewis Operating Corp. This unique consortium has more than a century of experience and has cumulatively developed and constructed more than 10 million square feet of office, retail and industrial properties, and over 100,000 single and multi-family homes.
Damonte Ranch is a 1,962-acre master planned community meant for mixed use, with 350 acres of commercial use, 1,162 residential acres, 173 acres of public facilities and 277 acres planned for open space and green belts. Located at the southern end of Reno, just before Mt. Rose Highway and south of Double Diamond Ranch, Damonte Ranch was originally formed by the consolidation of several smaller properties.
Irrigation was important throughout the ranch’s history for raising of wheat, oats, barley, corn and hay, and grazing cattle. Today’s water system for Damonte Ranch is taken care of through a wholesale agreement between The Tri Partners, Washoe County and Sierra Pacific. But there was a different sort of water consideration for the developers early on, which posed a major challenge. Getting the wetlands delineations and permits from the Army Corps of Engineers took four years, a lot of time and money. While one of the neighboring developments to the north is involved in a lawsuit regarding the wetlands, The Tri Partners opted to work through the process. In fact, company executives made the decision not to start until they had addressed the technical aspects of development — hydrology and flood control studies, biological studies, anthropological and historical studies.
“Wetlands is not a science, it’s more of an art,” says The Tri Partners principal Perry DiLoreto. “You’ve got a strong group of determined people who want to preserve as much of the land as they can and for good reason, and you’ve got us trying to find guidelines, to understand what’s wetlands and what isn’t.” The result of numerous citizens’ advisory board (CAB) meetings and the hiring of the best wetlands scientist they could find resulted in the only one-on-one mitigation plan in the region. For every acre of wetlands developed, another will be replaced on the ranch, as opposed to the usual two-, three- or four-acres-to-one agreements.
Citizens’ advisory boards were also concerned about the potential impact of density, traffic and lighting, including an emerging concern in rural areas — light pollution. The Tri Partners attended many meetings with concerned citizens. “Controversy comes from people being left out of the process and not understanding what’s going on,” says DiLoreto. “I don’t know how many CAB meetings we had with representatives from the county staff, and nobody was left out of the process.” The upshot: after a year of meeting with the advisory boards, neighbors and county staff, the public hearing process to approve the specific master plan lasted 45 minutes. “When I talk about how long it took to get it approved,” DiLoreto says, “I say it took eight years, two months, three days and 45 minutes because of the public hearing.”
One of the next challenges was getting the US 395 interchange built, but in the end a cooperative effort between The Tri Partners, Nevada Department of Transportation, the Regional Transportation Commission and Washoe County resulted in the new Damonte Ranch Parkway interchange. There isn’t a huge demand for the interchange yet, but the involved entities decided to go ahead with it rather than play catch up with traffic problems later on. It’s the same logic behind starting Damonte Ranch Parkway with the full six lanes — do it now, get it out of the way and avoid serious traffic issues from the beginning.
The new Damonte Ranch High School will open this fall on a 62-acre site donated to the school district by the Damonte Family. “There’s no better way to create a cohesive community atmosphere than through your schools. The addition of a new high school early on — it will be there before a lot of the houses — is like a magnet,” says DiLoreto, who wants to create a village-within-a-community concept.
Toward that end Damonte will include the Town Center, intended to ensure that residents don’t have to travel far for services such as a post office, grocery stores and light retail. Along with neighborhood shopping is the idea of creating job opportunities closer to where people live. “It’s state-of-the-art planning,” says DiLoreto, “and [builders in] Reno are trying to create work opportunities closer to where residents live to get rid of commutes.” With people relocating from gridlocked areas precisely for that reason, the notion is likely to be a popular move.
But there’s a limit to how much industry residents will want next door. ProLogis, one of the premier industrial developers worldwide, recently purchased approximately 86 acres of the development to build the Damonte Ranch Corporate Center. Barnesandnoble.com, utilizing Reno’s central hub location for distribution to the West Coast states, has chosen the Damonte Ranch Corporate Center as the home of its regional operations and distribution center, locating its 600,000-square-foot facility on the west side of US 395. The center, which opened in April, will eventually employ 750 people. The distribution center is located next to the freeway to reduce impact on the neighborhood, and comprises most of the industrial use of the land.
The principals of The Tri Partners have made a long-term commitment to change the landscape of the Damonte Ranch, preserving the best of what nature has to offer while opening up residential and business opportunities for people in northern Nevada.