Nevada City: Focused on economic development

Thanks to the Gold Rush, Nevada City was once California’s third largest city, behind Sacramento and San Francisco.

The picturesque foothills’ town—incorporated in 1856—has enticed some famous people. Mark Twain lectured in the Nevada Theatre “when Los Angeles wasn’t much more than a squalid cow town,” as the Los Angeles Times observed. The town also has secured its share of “firsts.” Meetings in Nevada City led to the founding of PG&E, as well as the first UC campus. The town also was the first manufacturing site for the Pelton Wheel.

“The Queen of the Northern Mines” struggled later, as Southern California and Silicon Valley grew up. In the ’60s “Nevada City was a down-at-the-heels hamlet with a confusing name — people tend to associate it with the state of Nevada, whose border is 64 miles away,” as the Times article recalls.

In the late ’60s and ’70s, Nevada City was reinvigorated by back-to-the-landers, artists, musicians and writers who came from the Bay Area for a more laid-back lifestyle. They opened new stores, preserved the town’s Victorian-era buildings, and helped create an artsy, bohemian feel that appealed to tourists and locals. In 1985, the downtown business district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to enterprising locals.

Economic Development Initiatives

Now — like other foothills’ towns — Nevada City (pop. 3,100) is seeking to strengthen its economy for the 21st century. City Hall has come up with some imaginative economic development programs to attract new businesses, boost tourism, and appeal to younger people. The plans have helped land new businesses that are helping to revitalize the town.

Examples include Three Forks Baking & Brewing Co., ol’ Republic Brewing Co., the Golden Era Lounge, the Inn Town Campground, and The Stone House. The owners said they were willing to invest in Nevada City, thanks to a more business friendly City Hall—perceived as a weak spot in the past.

The city also helped clear the way for the Bridge Street Project, where KVMR 89.5 Community Radio, the Nevada Theatre Commission and the community at large, collaborated to build an 8,000-sq.-ft. building behind the historic theater at the corner of Bridge and Spring streets.

Nevada City is the new home of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council. One initiative is a Green Screen Institute that seeks to become an incubator for the fast- growing virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.

The town has been named in a number of “best of” lists, including one in Outside magazine for “Best River Town.” The February issue of Sunset magazine named Nevada City No. 1 on its 2017 “Best Value Towns” list, ahead of Ventura; Boise; Prescott, Az.; and Vancouver, Wa. “(An) artsy sensibility (is) what’s luring big-city escapees … to Nevada City,” Sunset wrote. It listed Nevada City’s median family income at $55,000; and its medium home price at $377,000.

Nevada City isn’t resting on its laurels.

Examples include:
■ A new Nevada City Hotel Incentive Program encourages the renovation and expansion of hotel facilities. Five hotels, including the historic National Hotel, are eligible for the program, which could help enhance the travel experience for visitors and benefit the city.

■ A new “ParkEasy Nevada City” program seeks to add 154 parking spaces, shuttles and bicycle parking spots in the historic down- town, as well as electrical vehicle charging stations. It addresses an ongoing problem in Nevada City, as well as other foothills towns.

■ Other City Hall-backed initiatives include an Airbnb ordinance that loosens restrictions on short-term rentals, a move that boosts tourism and generates new tax revenue. The city’s planning commission also recently approved a proposed 71-unit housing development called The Grove.

Nevada City
■ New Hotel Investment Incentives
Five city hotels qualify
■ “ParkEasy” Project
Adding 154 downtown parking spaces
■ New Housing
The Grove, a proposed 71-unit project
■ No. 1 “Best Value Town” 2017, Sunset magazine
“Popular move for Bay Area people who dream of Main Street.”
To learn more, visit
NevadaCityCA.gov or call 530-265-2496

(Photo: Kial James)

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