That’s why my ears perked up when I heard about the opening of the Townhouses at Holcomb Place in downtown Reno. The 16-unit development is part of this “new urban living” concept that is popping up all over the place. When I lived in Southern California, fancy new condo buildings were touting a lifestyle of walking or taking the bus to work and play. One such fundominium complex was built across the street from Angel Stadium, so I often dreamed of being able to walk to the ball game, stuff myself with food and booze and stumble home with throngs of other fans.
Proximity to the national pastime is another reason I decided to check out Holcomb Place in Reno. One of the selling points is being within walking distance of the home of the Reno Aces Triple-A baseball stadium, which now is just a lot of piles of dirt, bare iron and artist’s renderings. But by April, the residents of Holcomb should be able to catch home run balls from their front doors.
So, on Wednesday I bustled over to check it out. Even though I’m not really in the market for a new place to live now (the current real estate situation is making sure I stay put in my house in north Reno), there is a chance I will be looking in the future. I decided to look at the Holcomb Place townhouses with the eye of a potential buyer — something I am practiced at by now. Besides, having looked at billions of online listings, I learned that you have to stand in the middle of a house to have a true sense about it. Either you can feel yourself living there or you can’t, and that feeling can’t be had through a virtual tour.
(For those of you who do still want the online experience, check out www.renotownhouses.com. I’ll also post some pictures of the place with this column at www.dailysparkstribune.com.)
I found Holcomb Place with no problem, which is good because it means that my future party guests would also find it with no problem. It’s located within a stone’s throw of the Siena hotel and casino, so there is a landmark that people can recognize. It’s also smack in the middle of a lot of old houses. This is fine if the old houses are well maintained, which some are. Others, not so much.
Nothing about the exterior of the Holcomb Place townhouses struck me as significant except that it is a new building surrounded by old ones. As I would later learn from Reno redevelopment director James Graham, the Townhouses at Holcomb Place is one of the very first residential projects to be completed in the redevelopment area. In layman’s terms, the redevelopment area is the part of town that ought to be burned to the ground and started over again.
These townhouses are tall and skinny. Entering the unit, there is a staircase on the right going straight up and a hallway on the left going straight back. The polished concrete floor is described as “sleek contemporary” but from a homeowner’s perspective it is easy to clean if you track in mud or dirt but is also cold on bare feet in the morning. Down the hall is a guest bedroom and bathroom and a closet for a full-size washer and dryer. So if all my socks are dirty, I’m running downstairs on a cold floor to wash my load. On the other hand, if unwanted guests are staying and they don’t like the concrete floor or going up and down stairs to eat then it’ll get them to leave sooner.
Also on the ground floor is a door to the one-car garage. Anything bigger than my Ford Explorer probably wouldn’t fit in it. It’s also good that I don’t own a lot of extra stuff, because unless I want to install a lot of high shelves in the garage, I would have no place else to put it.
Back in the house, I walked up to the second floor. My first thought was the challenge maneuvering furniture through the front door, past the hand rail, onto the stairs and then up. I suggest small or medium furniture. At the top of the stairs is the kitchen with its bamboo hardwood floors, granite countertops and shiny appliances. The kitchen opens up into the living area, which is of average size but seems large with floor-to-ceiling windows and a high vaulted ceiling. I’m told the house heats quickly and holds the warmth despite the high ceilings, but the heating bill might say otherwise. The model couches and coffee table in the living room were of average size, probably just right for a single person or a couple to lounge in the evenings.
On the other side of the kitchen is the master bedroom and bathroom. The doors to the bedroom can be closed while keeping access to the bathroom open so guests aren’t put at risk traversing the stairs after several glasses of wine to use the facilities. The master bathroom also features expensive fixtures and tile and granite. The shower is bigger than average with a seat opposite the shower head. I had a similar shower at my first house, and we lovingly referred to it as the “party shower.”
The master bedroom is the only part of the house with carpet, which gives the feet a pleasant way to wake up. Both the master and guest bedrooms have frosted glass windows that provide nice soft light, while also blocking the view of the blighted houses behind. Unfortunately, there is nothing to block this view from the third floor patio, which in the party life of a single guy would be a logical place for guests to gather on a warm summer night. There is a smaller patio on the second floor with a nice view of downtown, so I’d encourage guests to enjoy that view.
Rounding out the tour, the staircase from the living area on the second floor goes to a loft area that has large windows that look out on the aforementioned patio without a view. The loft is perfect for a hard-working journalist to put his laptop and minimalist European computer desk, or perhaps set up a makeshift portrait studio. Perhaps on the wall I’d put up one of my artsy black-and-white photographs of the beautiful model who just moved into the condo next to me.
Though neither Graham or the developer, Bruce Szathmary, mentioned anything about beautiful women, they did both say that buying at Holcomb is about bringing confidence back into the real estate market. After hearing the cost for the Holcomb townhouses, I better get some confidence and a closet full of hot babes with the purchase price. The real estate agents are waiting for the final appraisal, but they are expecting the price to be in the mid to high $400,000s.
Suddenly, plain countertops and cheap fixtures seem really appealing. But what exactly am I getting for this price? The interior is really nice and I’m close to downtown so I could walk to bars and restaurants and eventually the baseball stadium. I would still have to drive to work, though if you work downtown there would be savings on gas. But I bought a brand new 2,700-square-foot house just 10 minutes from downtown for $310,000. I have a yard and lots of room and once this market turns around my house will appreciate more than any condo.
In his ribbon-cutting speech Wednesday, Graham said Holcomb buyers will not just be making an investment, they will be buying a home. I certainly want a home, but an investment is good, too. I’m sure Holcomb Place will be surrounded by other beautiful developments in 10 or 15 years, but do I want to pay $2,000 a month in the meantime? I’m not so sure.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit in my back yard. I know, it needs to be mowed. I’ll get to it.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.