Whether you’re dining, shopping, living, or just wandering around Midtown, you’re probably doing it in or near a building touched by Reno architect Jack Hawkins. Since he established Hawkins & Associates in 1994, Jack Hawkins has left his mark on the Reno landscape and cityscape, with some key projects in Midtown. Hawkins specializes in innovative contemporary architecture and interiors for residential and commercial properties. A LEED-certified professional Reno architect, Hawkins is committed to creating architecture that is beautiful, functional, and sustainable.
We sat down with Hawkins to chat about Midtown Reno—where it’s been, what he’s seen, and where he thinks it’s going. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
Reno architect on Midtown’s beginnings
Midtown started for me with Pete Stremmel and the Stremmel Gallery renovation more than 20 years ago. At the time, everybody was building in South Meadows for any sort of office space. Because Pete was already here, I said, “Pete, what if you did some nice boutique office spaces? If we had told a commercial developer or real estate person at the time, they would have laughed us out of the office because everybody was moving away. But Pete was already established in the area, and he said, “All right, let’s do it.” The thing I think most proud of the Stremmel Gallery building is that it’s never been vacant. We’ve never had office space empty in 20 plus years.
Modern on Cheney
Then, I designed four modern, loft townhomes on Cheney street. That was kind of experimental. Nobody was doing any sort of modern urban infill at the time. We built them behind these beautiful little 1938 bungalows that we renovated. When you go down Cheney Street, you almost don’t notice them because they’re stepped back from the street. We were able to take what had been pretty derelict homes with definitely neglected backyards, and we more than doubled the density and enhanced the environment.
8 on Center
We started developing 8 on Center about the same time. That was an old derelict piece of property, and we built these eight award-winning, contemporary, environmentally friendly townhomes located in the 800 block of Center Street. I feel like 8 on Center was a catalyst for Center Street because after 8 on Center went in, right across the street, GuiDenby developed and built a nice building for themselves.
777 Center Street
Renovating 777 Center Street, which was the old Maytan music building, was a tough one. Even though it was one of the ugliest buildings in town, people had a lot of memories there. A lot of people had seen pretty important concerts there on the upper floor. It was used as a music venue. My kids had their music lessons there. So, it was an important building for the community, and the owner was pretty sensitive to that. But at the same time, it needed a facelift. The idea was to give it a whole new use. It became a nice mixed-use facility. We worked with the city to get some street trees. We carved out some of the square footage to create that courtyard where Piñon Bottle Company is. If you go down there on even a warm spring or fall night, that place is packed.
1039 S. Virginia St.
This was another building where part of it had been derelict for a long, long time. We actually pulled the facade off the sidewalk because we wanted to create outdoor space, that sense of presence on the street. People can sit out there when the weather’s nice. Rum Sugar Lime has the best pulled-back space because we left some of the old roof structure and created this trellis space. When it’s sunny, it’s really cool to be in that space, and the sun is coming in.
On Midtown Entrepreneurs
What’s cool about Midtown is it developed organically. It was people who took a chance. They took an old house and said, “Hey, we think we can make a go of this.” And there were little retail spaces that said, “Let’s see what we can do.” A lot of these small entrepreneurs and developers really took some chances and made things happen. They took a gamble. And now Midtown has these great little venues that you’re happy to take somebody from out of town to.
On The Future of Midtown
I’m not very good at the crystal ball, but the one thing that I’d love to see more of is great mixed-use development. These kinds of projects are springing up in other cities, and consequently, it creates really great communities because you’ve got people living, working, eating, retailing right in one spot. I’d love to see more of that kind of thing happening to Midtown.