Andrea Wilkinson/Nevada Sagebrush
A house in Reno’s Gateway District as it stands on Monday, Dec. 11. Houses such as this one are being sold by the university and relocated to in order to make space for UNR to expand.

Before the University of Nevada, Reno, can look to expand south toward I-80, it must first find new owners willing to move 12 historic homes sitting in between the university and the freeway.

In the area between Interstate 80 and East Ninth Street, university administration are looking to move the 12 homes to give the university room to expand. To do so, the university is issuing a request for proposals for transfer of ownership.

“We want to increase our academic footprint beyond the campus,” University President Marc Johnson said. “With all of our growth in number of students and number of faculty, we just needed to expand the footprint of the campus.”

According to Johnson, there are several identified plans for the land once cleared, including a building to house the College of Business, a life sciences building primarily for laboratories, and a possible parking garage.

The houses in question are spread around Center Street, East Eighth Street, East Ninth Street, and Lake Street and are all owned by the university. The homes are historic parts of Reno, some being built as early as 1895.

The move to expand also comes as an attempt to create a stronger bond with the downtown Reno area, according to a briefing document from the university.

“We want to move the campus South and the community North to meet,” Johnson said. “We want to create a vibrant connection between the university and downtown with knowledge-based businesses and things of that nature. The university share of that is to move new construction of academic buildings toward the South. This would result in the businesses hiring our students as interns and our graduates to bring the university and downtown together.”

While the university is trying to move the historic homes out of the area, they are hoping to preserve them as much as possible.

“Preservation interests have expressed a desire for the historic homes to remain in their current location,” the university said in a statement. “The University recognizes and shares the desire to preserve the houses, but cannot justify the expenditure of funds required to convert the houses due to the need to construct larger scale buildings in the Gateway to meet the growing demands for enrollment and research over the next two decades.”

The relocation of the homes is just one component of the university’s 10-year Master Plan. This is not the first time the relocation of these homes has been brought up — talks of moving them first began in 2015.

“[The university] envisions an even more dynamic campus to serve the University’s growing enrollment, anticipated to reach 25,000 students,” the university said in a statement.

Those interested in making a proposal for transfer of ownership and relocation of any of the 12 homes are to make proposals before June 7, 2018 at 2 p.m.

According to Johnson, there will be deadlines for when the homes must be relocated.

“They’ll have a deadline once they’re approved,” Johnson said. “Once they’re approved they won’t be able to let them sit around for a year. I think they’ll be moved within 2018.”

According to Johnson, the demolition of the houses is not the optimal solution.

“We don’t know how much effective interest there will be,” Johnson said. “We don’t know if we will move all 12 of the houses that are available, but we will see how much interest there is. Then we will have to clear the sites, as we have building plans.”

The university is hopeful that interest in the homes will be high, as the only financial cost on them will be the relocation.

“People will get virtually free houses if they are willing to move them and set them up in a new location,” Johnson said. “We’re asking for $5000 because we need some statement of commitment to actually get the houses moved. They’ll just be responsible for the moving and setting up of the houses in their new locations.”