There is a renaissance occurring in many American towns that are reclaiming their downtowns when bisecting highways are rerouted from town centres. Mayor Bob Crowell is the Mayor of  Carson City Nevada. This is the capital of Nevada and has a population of about 55,000 people, located fifty kilometers or 31 miles from Reno Nevada. Since the last mid-century, Carson City hosted a highway right through their main downtown area, with the highway effectively bisecting both sides of the street and minimizing pedestrian and cycling movement. Traffic was through traffic, and  there were metal fences on the side of the sidewalks to keep pedestrians further separated away from the travelled portion of the road.
The 21st century brought two changes-a plan for the new Interstate 580 to go around the downtown area, and a 1/8th  cent sales tax devoted to community improvements, including a downtown revitalization project to bring the city’s heart back into a walkable, bikeable sociable place. The total cost of the new downtown streetscape revitalization plan was 11.4 million dollars.

“A big part of what we’re doing down here is to create not just a sense of place, but a sense of community,” says Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell. “Some will say, you know, you are just doing this for downtown businesses but we are doing it for the entire city so that we all share in what is happening with the diversification of northern Nevada.

There are wider sidewalks and a bicycle lane, shorter pedestrian crossing distances on streets and new trees and light poles similar to those installed in this historic town in the 1800’s. Even the benches located on the main street echo the sandstone brick used to build the capital building in 1869, also situated on the main street. One side street has been closed and made into a public plaza and water park. This new McFadden Plaza is located directly across the street from the state capitol building.


There was a lot of discussion about the changes in the streetscape, but as the Director of the Downtown Business Association noted “Downtown Carson City has always been a gathering place for our locals to get together on a Friday night or Saturday. This should expand that to make it a fun, easy-to-get-to place to shop, have a bite to eat or visit local pubs any time of the day or day of the week.”

The  proof is in the use, with the area fast becoming an arts and entertainment centre as more businesses open up along the Main Street. Carson City has its downtown back.



  1. Maybe you should of asked the majority of residents of Carson City. The 1/8 tax and the redesign of 1/2 of Carson Street was forced upon us. Not to mention a road closure that there forcing us to accept as a community gathering space. When in reality only a couple private businesses are reaping the rewards by building gazebos for outside seating on public land without any type of lease. The sandstone brick you speak off is poured stamped and painted concrete that doesn’t come close to matching the old sandstone. The concrete is already chipping & cracking. They ripped out fully established trees & bushes that were beautiful for trees that are young and are decades from offering color and shade. They poured large extra wide concrete sidewalks will reflect aloof heat in the summer. Atleast they could of use concrete pavers for some architectural design and are easily replaceable when area crack or shift. The mayor and board of supervisors worked covertly to keep this measure of the ballot forcing it upon us.

    1. Change is hard isn’t it. Especially when it is for a community heading into the next century and not for you as an individual. Good on the mayor and board.

  2. I can tell you as a cyclists who commutes to work by bike on a daily basis, the new bike lanes downtown are great. Previously, cycling along Carson St was dangerous at best if not impossible. I also walk up and down the new wider sidewalks everyday and having some distance between you and the passing cars makes the walks enjoyable as opposed to the near miss with traffic that it used to be. The small portion of 3rd St that was closed to create McFadden Plaza is something every Carson City resident should be proud of. This project had plenty of support from the residents due to the many public meetings that were held informing the citizens of the design plans that were being considered. I’m really proud of my home town for being so forward-thinking and making downtown Carson City a beautiful destination. It’s a huge improvement. Thank you to the leaders of Carson City who made this project happen.

  3. The downtown revitalization has been a great project so far, and as more activities fill up the calendar and beckon people to come experience it, more and more folks will become believers in the complete streets concept and come to appreciate the beautiful plaza. Already there are farmers markets, concerts, and events like Taste of Downtown that showcase the updates. It’s just a pleasure to be downtown now and it’s friendly to so many more user groups – pedestrians, cyclists, families… Looking forward to seeing the other corridor projects take shape to the south, north, and east.

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