Kimpton says downtown Reno hotel — the first Kimpton property in the Silver State — will be “transformative” for downtown.
What happens in Vegas does not necessarily stay there, as Las Vegas-based developer CAI Investments broke ground Friday for Nevada’s first Kimpton boutique hotel — in Reno.
With properties in states such as Arizona and Florida, CAI is no stranger to spreading its wings outside of its home market. Reno, however, is getting a lot of attention in recent years from CAI, which is working on two big projects in the downtown core.
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In addition to the Kimpton, CAI is in the midst renovating the former Harrah’s Reno hotel-casino into a mixed-use residential and commercial project known as the Reno City Center. The project, which already landed its first major office tenant in Clear Capital and recently opened a new Starbucks coffee shop, continues to move forward with construction and plans to have the first of its residential units open sometime this year.
This Friday the 13th is all about the Reno Kimpton project.
The day started with CAI’s CEO Chris Beavor joining Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants CEO Mike Defrino at the vacant plot of land between Court Street and Island Avenue for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Just across the street, festivities were already underway at nearby Wingfield Park as guests lined up at food trucks and mingled at several tables that were set up for the event.
“I mean, Las Vegas doesn’t have a Kimpton,” Beavor noted. “This project makes a statement to business and leisure travelers and at a global level that Reno has matured.”
Ground is broke for the Kimpton Hotel in Reno on May 13, 2022.
Reno Kimpton groundbreaking marks challenging, unexpected journey
The groundbreaking is a key milestone for the Reno Kimpton. Initially announced in late 2019 as an unnamed hotel project, the timeline for the Reno Kimpton was impacted by the arrival of COVID-19 as well as a challenging construction environment marked by labor shortages and supply chain constraints.
The pandemic led to delays at its sister project, the Reno City Center, which was hit by an outbreak among its workers during the initial wave of omicron variant infections in Washoe County. A billing dispute with one contractor over the Kimpton project also led to a lawsuit last year, which has since been dismissed.
The impact of the pandemic, as well as surging inflation, supply chain issues and the war on Ukraine on the overall economy, was not lost on Kimpton executives. When Kimpton first inked a deal with CAI in 2019, the world was a much different place, DeFrino said.
“Certainly, there’s a lag in staffing … and the supply chain is anybody’s guess,” Defrino said. “Until China opens up and the geopolitical climate stabilizes, we’re at the mercy of the world.”
At the same time, the industry is also seeing some positive signs, DeFrino added. Restaurants, which comprise a big part of Kimpton’s business, are essentially back and even outperforming pre-pandemic levels in some areas. Economic laggards such as San Francisco and Seattle, which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, are also coming back, DeFrino said.
Then you have smaller yet growing communities such as Reno, which have withstood the impacts of COVID-19 much better than larger metro areas, he added.
“Being a San Francisco, Calif.-based company, we’ve seen, heard and read about all the growing tech infrastructure in Reno … and we want to be part of that rejuvenation,” DeFrino said. “We’re very excited to get this off the ground.”
Chris Beavor of CAI Investments speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kimpton Hotel in Reno on May 13, 2022.
CAI talks about Kimpton design changes
The project is now reaching the final stretch prior to construction, although all permits have yet to be secured. Beavor expects all the necessary permits to be signed off by the end of the month.
The final design for the property is also still subject to change amid ongoing discussions between CAI, Kimpton and Denver-based Obermeier Sheykhet Architecture.
The design of the Reno Kimpton has changed multiple times since its announcement, which Beavor described as a normal part of such large-scale construction efforts. Part of the reason involved community response to the project. After the initial design was released, for example, questions were raised about the hotel casting a shadow on the surrounding neighborhood. The city of Reno ultimately ended up amending its shade ordinance, paving the way for projects such as the Kimpton.
Some of the site’s neighbors also expressed concern over the potential impact of the Kimpton on their properties.
“The condominium next door didn’t want the offices blocking their views and the city also reached out and wanted to keep the (historic Regina Apartments) nearby,” Beavor said.
“So it’s like a Rubik’s cube and as we get feedback, we listen to the community. The trick to being a developer is to make everybody happy.”
Also, while the exterior design of the hotel garners the most attention from the public, it is usually the last thing that gets finalized, Beavor added.
Typically, the focus for the design of projects such as the Reno Kimpton starts from the inside, with things like hotel entry and exit, lobby seating capacity and meeting space.
“We program from the inside out so (the design) is almost done in reverse,” Beavor said.
“The color of the paint, are we going to have more glass or less glass — those are things that are still in flux. That’s the last thing we worry about.”
Kimpton CEO Mike DeFrino speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kimpton Hotel in Reno on May 13, 2022.
‘This project will be transformative for downtown Reno’
Regardless of what the final design ends up looking like, Beavor stressed that the vision behind the project remains the same. Describing it as the first large-scale construction effort in downtown Reno since the Silver Legacy Resort, Beavor called the Kimpton a key asset in pushing The Biggest Little City outside of the community.
Having a Kimpton in Reno, for example, means having the backing of a global hotel brand, including parent company IHG Hotels & Resorts, which will market the property and the city to its clientele worldwide, according to Beavor.
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The boutique hotel also provides a great first impression to guests about Reno, whether it be tourists, business travelers or job recruits staying at the hotel. This includes proximity to the Truckee River, with CAI planning to leverage it for guest activities such as kayaking, fishing and biking. The property will also use Wingfield Park for holding events, including entertainment.
Beavor cited a Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority survey as one of the data sources that CAI is using when formulating the strategy for the Reno Kimpton.
“The No. 1 reason people like Reno is outdoor recreation and activity,” Beavor said.
“The No. 1 reason people don’t like Reno is the rundown and dirty parts of the downtown area. This project helps address those two things.”
Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, agreed.
Kazmierski, whose organization plays a key role in attracting new companies to Northern Nevada, says having a high-profile boutique hotel like the Kimpton helps reinforce Reno’s image outside the community.
Prior to being included in several lists for the best cities in the U.S. — including the best small city in 2020 by BestCities.org — Kazmierksi noted Reno’s reputation as being the “Detroit of the West” after the city was hit hard by the Great Recession.
“This (Kimpton project) is huge,” Kazmierski said. “It’s a big deal and reinforces all of our success in the last few years.”
Kimpton is targeting an opening date of January 2025 for the property. The hotel will have 270 rooms, 50 residences, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and four main restaurants plus a rooftop bar, DeFrino said.
The company hopes that the property will be a key part of downtown Reno’s continued evolution, said Tiffany Cooper, Kimpton’s senior vice president of development.
“Being in a market like Reno is such an exceptional opportunity for us because of the ongoing transformation that’s going on,” Cooper said. “This project, in particular, will be transformative for the downtown Reno market.”