2015 Vanguards Get Creative Amid Reno’s Drive to Succeed – Next City
From the Publisher

2015 Vanguards Get Creative Amid Reno’s Drive to Succeed

(Photo by Chris Holloman)

Back from my first Next City Vanguard conference, I can report that Reno is truly a “Next City” in America.

During our visit to the “biggest little city in the world” last week, we saw the challenges and opportunities that make Reno a very special place to live, work and play. More importantly, Next City’s staff and our 2015 Vanguards felt the spirit that will undoubtedly continue to drive innovation, creativity and, ultimately, success.

From the Depot, a modern distillery in a renovated brick building that was an early-20th-century railway office, to the Nevada Museum of Art, a creative community leader in a state that’s seen big cuts to arts education, Reno has good bones. Its historic character is embodied in the former USPS post office that’s in the midst of a makeover mixing historic preservation, entrepreneurial energy and placemaking retail. The city has seen many transitions and is preparing for a growing population and workforce that appreciate modern amenities (such as Aces Ballpark, home to a minor-league baseball team) with old-style charm.

Our tour along 4th Street took us through an industrial area that’s home to hidden gems like a metal design factory and a bicycle shop, juxtaposed with a transit hub, a social services facility, a brew pub and the Morris Burner Hotel. An award goes to artist studio Cuddleworks for best moniker.

The 2015 Vanguard class did a lot of walking in what many consider an auto-dominated town. Inspired by speaker Matt Tomasulo’s vision of “Walk [Your City],” the 55 urban leaders from throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico experienced the excitement of Innovation Row, the glorious nature at Riverwalk, and the culinary delights of food trucks, the Hub’s coffee and Dorinda’s chocolates. Not to be outdone, chef Mark Estee’s chocolate-covered bacon and a tour of his butchery at Reno Provisions reminded us that it really is all about how the sausage is made.

Vanguards had a chance to share expertise with members of the Nevada chapter of the American Planning Association. Also, during panel discussions, Vanguards representing the public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors explored the future of transportation, the public impact of the arts, and how short-term tactics can lead to long-term change.

Yes, there are plenty of stories about casino winnings (and losings), but Reno was the perfect place to explore what makes cities tick, and for the 2015 Vanguards and alumni, how tactical urbanism can make a difference. With three days of immersion and the “Big Idea Challenge” that made them rock stars among the locals, the Vanguards shared ideas for improving the daily experience for residents, employers, workers and visitors. (More to come on the Challenge soon.)

Our EDAWN hosts showered us with Reno hospitality — they even coordinated the annual Sculpture Fest and River Festival to occur during our stay; and the Whitney Peak Hotel and its intimidating rock wall dared us to go beyond our comfort zone. Our Vanguards gave back, setting up websites and hashtags, and even planting a roof garden. The energy throughout Vanguard 2015 was palpable, but the passion and commitment to help Reno succeed was even more profound.

I thank Reno and our hosts for a truly memorable event, and I hope that our time spent was impactful. We look forward to returning soon to see many of the Big Ideas implemented, thanks to the commitment of local leaders and the financial support of the Nightingale Family Foundation, Dermody Properties and United Construction.

Check out the great photos from Next City’s 2015 Vanguard, by Chris Holloman, in the gallery below. And if you get the chance to visit Reno, go for it!

Gallery: Next City’s 2015 Vanguard

Tom is president, CEO and publisher of Next City. Before joining the organization in 2015, he directed the Center for Resilient Design at the College of Architecture and Design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Prior to that, he ran the Regional Plan Association’s New Jersey office, and served as a senior adviser on land use for two New Jersey governors. Tom is a licensed professional planner, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, as well as an adjunct professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he teaches land use planning and infrastructure planning.

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