A conservation district provides for a method of achieving preservation without regulations of a traditional historic district approach. A conservation district can include historic resources that share a similar form, character, unique elements and/or visual qualities derived from a combination of topography, vegetation, space, scenic vistas, architecture, unique features, or places of natural or cultural significance, that create a district which exhibits stability, livability, and specific identity.
A conservation district is designated through the establishment of precise boundaries and is non-regulatory. The designation does not impose on property owners any regulatory requirements other than those currently required through zoning. Simple design changes to the right-of-way including signage, lighting, corner monuments, and street signs, can give the conservation district a cohesive feel, while maintaining individual property rights. Street signs, entrance markers, and other types of identifiers will facilitate this process. By identifying each area, conservation districts will be distinct and foster a sense of community belonging.
After the death of Sheldon O. Wells in 1900, his son-in-law Samuel Wheeler managed Wells’ estate. In 1905, Sheldon O. Wells’ estate was approved to be subdivided into the Wells Addition. With the Wells Addition came Wells Avenue, which established the eastern boundary of Reno and also extended Cheney Street as its southern boundary. In 1909, trolley service was extended to the area, increasing access and providing a connection for residents of the Wells Avenue Neighborhood to other parts of Reno.
Many of the residences in the area pre-date the mid 1940’s and are characteristic of the time period in which they were constructed. Since the Virginia and Truckee Railroad bordered the Wells Addition to the west, the area fostered a unique character which included an eclectic mixture of vernacular architectural styles that span several decades. The different architectural styles include Queen Anne Revival, craftsman-type bungalows made of brick and cut rock, minimal traditional, and ranch styles.
The area experienced a rapid change from primarily residential use to becoming a commercial corridor with the emergence of the Lincoln Highway, a transcontinental highway that was connected to Wells Avenue. The increased demand for services that was created by the Lincoln Highway travelers resulted in the conversion of former residences to commercial uses and new commercial development. The Wells Avenue Neighborhood Conservation District includes the parcels located south of Ryland Street, north of Vassar Street, east of Holcomb Avenue, and west of Locust Street.
The Powning Addition was established by C. C. Powning in the 1880’s. The earliest buildings were modest in size and were typically working-class homes. However significant buildings are found in the area designed by well-known architects. Some of the buildings in the area include the McKinley Park School, Lora J. Knight House, Ginocchio craftsman style home, Lear Theater (First Church of Christ, Scientist), Ambassador Apartments, 20th Century Club, and a Hewitt Wells designed contemporary office building.
The Powning Conservation District includes parcels north of the Truckee River, south of parcels that front Second Street, west of Arlington Avenue, and east of Keystone Avenue.