Builders of one of Victorian Square’s latest and most anticipated projects, a 236-unit apartment complex, will officially begin construction Sep. 28 under the direction of Reno-based Silverwing Development.
J. Carter Witt III, Silverwing’s president, and Doug Hunter, the company’s director of construction, are overseeing the project. The company’s latest development, Fountainhouse, a multi-family residential development on about 4 acres, is a major piece in the transformation of downtown Sparks.
The project will consist of 12 apartment buildings, a clubhouse and pool. Two of the structures, in front of the Century Theaters in Victorian Square, are designed to have retail or restaurant space on the ground floor.
Witt said that he tries to be strategic when scouting for new places to build. “We’re general contractors, but our focus is being a developer because we create and design the projects,” he said in an interview.
And finding value in the Reno-Sparks real estate market is just the beginning of the firm’s quest. Witt said that he and Hunter evaluate areas that they believe have a “unique opportunity to become dramatically different and nicer” while having the potential to become a desired place to live. This includes building one-story apartment units with a garage in the North Valley’s Sky Vista area. There’s also another project they completed on Virginia Lake overlooking the water and the Sierras.
Silverwing helped design and build multi-family projects in California and Texas during the late 1980s and 1990s. In 1995, Silverwing moved to Reno. Now, the firm focuses on Northern Nevada.
Witt said it was time for a change in life when he got into the development business. The University of Southern California graduate studied physiology. He then turned to finance. This landed him jobs with EF Hutton as an investment banker. He later handled pension funds for Bank of America. But soon he traded his finance career for building and designing.
“I got tired of all the traveling I did before so I just wanted to do something different, “ he said. About two and a half years ago Witt met Hunter. Hunter graduated from McQueen High School. He received his civil engineering degree from University of Nevada, Reno.
Soon, Witt and Hunter began prospecting Victorian Square.
“I love the whole Sparks area, but it’s just sad to see this big, empty concrete parking lot across from the theater, so I think this area has great appeal—it just needs people,” Hunter said.
When he first began drawing design plans for the Victorian Square development he knew it would be a challenge. Small casinos in the area were dying. With the exception of special events, the downtown needed a jump start with something fresh and new.
That’s when Hunter and Witt decided on an “urban-hip style” to create a more modern look while still retaining the classic Victorian theme. They even included artistic images on the metal structures supporting the buildings, along with adding chimes and a waterfall to the complex.
“We wanted to avoid any generic design that wasn’t going to do anything for the area,” Hunter said. “We had to create a unique walkable lifestyle with little room for space and no room to wiggle and still look great.” He created a four-story unit plan to help accessibility and ease parking problems.
Witt believes that the new condo-style apartment units will act as an anchor for attracting more residents and businesses to downtown Sparks.
“Historically Sparks was not a concentric market,” he said. “Employment bases are usually concentric to where people live. Sparks was only feeding job demand locally and on the west side of town. There was no benefit to the east. But that will all change in the next couple of years. We’re not just bringing in more housing, but more retail outlets as well. Our focus is going to be art, entertainment and housing.”
He added that other key factors with the new development location include proximity to the theater, the city bus station, the Nugget Casino Resort and the freeway.
“We think this area will be a destination location when it’s complete,” Witt said. “I think you’ll find a whole new environment from the theater to the Nugget that will feature a new experience of landscape, art, music and lighting.”