Construction sites remain active in Truckee-Tahoe amid COVID-19
Sierra Sun continues its “Investigating the Impact” series to discuss how the community is coping with the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on the toll the pandemic has had on the economy, government services, education, health care, housing, nonprofits and arts and culture, and the situation each sector faces and what resources are available to help the community move forward.
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While the outbreak of COVID-19 has caused widespread closures to businesses across the Truckee-Tahoe area, one sector has continued to thrive during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
Construction projects across the region have either stayed on schedule or have been able to take advantage of less vehicle and foot traffic to accelerate work.
In downtown Truckee, work started last week to replace a section of roughly 40-year-old curb and gutter along a portion of the north side of Commercial Row.
“With downtown being closed for business for the most part at the moment, it’s our opinion that this is a good opportunity to replace that section of deteriorated curb and gutter,” Truckee Engineer and Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said in an April 28 Truckee Town Council meeting.
Town Council members unanimously approved of the project, and also increased its current budget for curb and gutter replacement from $25,000 up to $100,000.
The increase in funds for the project, which will replace a deteriorated section of curb and gutter between Bar of America and Cabona’s, were made possible by the town effectively freeing up $1.2 million in funding from the Coldstream Culvert Project by substituting $600,000 in state grant funding, as well as moving $600,000 out of a more restrictive local funding source.
Through May 22, all parking spaces located within the project area will be blocked off, and unavailable to the public.
Readying for return to school
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has a trio of major projects it’s working to wrap up by fall.
While most of the projects have remained on schedule, work done on the east wing of Truckee High School was started early due to the state closing schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
“We’ve been able to continue all of our construction projects,” said Superintendent Rob Leri. “We’ve been able to accelerate a few things in response to kids not being on our campuses … we were able to start some portions of Truckee High School for sections that were scheduled in the summer.”
Work being done at Truckee High includes a new 6,800-square-foot library, upgraded mechanical and electrical equipment, upgraded technology, roof structural upgrades, and enhancement of the front façade.
Work for the project, which has a $24 million budget, is expected to be finished in the fall.
Students heading to Truckee Elementary School this fall will also benefit from a new library. The two new libraries at the elementary and high school will “rival college libraries,” according to Leri, in the amount of new technology being installed.
Work at Truckee Elementary, which has a $35.5 million budget, also includes a new cafeteria and production kitchen, which was finished in time to be utilized as part of the district’s free meal program.
One of the district’s largest projects in recent years, a nearly $50 million modernization of Tahoe Lake Elementary School, is scheduled to be finished by September and ready for the start of the upcoming school year.
The project has taken roughly three years and has had to overcome challenges such as failing concrete, dry rot, and asbestos and transite pipes (asbestos-cement pipe).
“Every part of that school has been touched,” said Leri. “It’s going to be an amazing facility for Tahoe City.”
Moving into the summer, the district is also planning on roofing projects at Truckee Elementary School and at Glenshire Elementary School.
Grocery stores near completion
While some construction work has been aided by empty halls and empty streets from COVID-19, a pair of new grocery stores set to open this summer should help the community in its recovery by providing employment and giving locals and visitors more options for shopping.
As Raley’s and Grocery Outlet near completion, Truckee Community Planning Manager Jenna Gatto said the effects of COVID-19 highlight the importance of having additional options for shopping in town.
“Certainly public health is part of what planners think about but it’s generally not at the forefront,” said Gatto in an April interview with the Sun. “The idea of having more dispersed grocery stores within Truckee is something we’ve been working on for a number of years.”
The 40,000-square-foot Raley’s, off Highway 267, is tentatively scheduled to open in late June or early July according to Director of Public Relations and Public Affairs Chelsea Minor.
The opening of Raley’s should help to offset some of the region’s unemployment, as dozens of workers will soon be needed to staff the store.
“We are looking to hire more than 100 team members for the new Truckee store,” said Minor.
Raley’s has hosted one job fair already for the new store, and will have another today and May 22 at its Reno location on Robb Drive.
Grocery Outlet, which is located in the Gateway Area of Donner Pass Road, is projected to open in late June, according to Owner-Operators Ryan and Shannon Parrish.
The 16,147-square-foot store was approved by the Planning Commission in 2018, but was appealed by locals in the adjacent neighborhood before ultimately being approved of by Town Council.
Large projects forge ahead
At its meeting on Tuesday, the Truckee Town Council approved the sale of town-owned property on Rue Ivy to Alder Pacific Associates II, an affiliate of Pacific West Communities.
Following the completion of the sale, work on a 68-unit rental project known as Frishman Hollow II, will begin. Of the units, 67 are designated to be affordable households for those with incomes equal to or less than 80% of the area median income, for a period of 55 years.
Alder Pacific purchased the property, which is approximately 4.87 acres, for $1.36 million for the project. Alder Pacific intends to break ground on the project May 18, with plans of having work “substantially completed” by fall, according to the resolution the town adopted on Tuesday.
Work on the Truckee Artist Lofts also continues, and includes 76-income restricted rental apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. A building permit for the Artist Lofts, which is part of the greater Truckee Railyard Project, was issued in December, allowing work at the site to begin.
“What we’re generally seeing on these projects, for the most part, especially the larger projects, those clients still want to go forward,” said Martin Wood of SCO Planning, Engineering & Surveying. Wood’s Grass Valley-based firm has a satellite office in Truckee and is involved in the Coldstream Master Plan, Frishman Hollow project, and Gray’s Crossing Master Plan Community and Specific Plan.
The Village at Gray’s Crossing, which has a development permit for a 129-unit hotel, 17,192 square feet of commercial space, 21 residential units, a fourplex, and 24 townhomes, has “scaled back a little bit,” according to Wood, with the developers taking a wait and see approach.
Permits, inspections on the rise
In Truckee, Building Department Supervisor Dan West said the department has been extremely busy during the past few, issuing four to five times the amount of permits as it normally would during this time.
For Nevada County as a whole, the demand for building permits and inspections has not slowed either, according to Craig Griesbach, Nevada County’s director of building.
“Interestingly enough, we have actually increased in most areas during the pandemic,” Griesbach said in an email. “Our building permit submittals increased by 25% during March and April compared to 2019. The number of inspections we completed during March increased by 46% compared to 2019.”
Griesbach attributed part of the increase to homeowners taking advantage of being home during this time and doing projects.
While local contractors have had to make modifications, like social distancing, to their routine, they are still seeing plenty of employment opportunities, said Nevada County Contractors’ Association Executive Director Libby Goldsmith.
“Their phones are still ringing, work is being scheduled for the summer,” she said, adding, “The construction industry has been really lucky.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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