Blighted Kings Inn may have a buyer

Reported by: Terri Hendry
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Updated: 7/16/2014 10:24 pm
RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- A Las Vegas developer confirms he is eyeing the Kings Inn. If a deal is struck, it would be a major milestone in removing a long time blighted building in the heart of downtown Reno.

The developer is Amador Bengochea, President and Owner of Bentar Development, Inc., a Las Vegas general contracting firm. Bengochea said it is premature for him to comment, as the deal has not closed, but city officials said they have been talking with elected officials and others in Las Vegas about Bengochea.

They have found he has a good reputation and they are encouraged by this news. "I've seen his work and talked to Mayor Goodman," said Reno mayor Bob Cashell. "He's a great guy and would be a great community asset to us, so we're tickled to death."

In 2002, Mayor Cashell ran on a campaign promise to clean up the blighted building that has remained abandoned for decades. "The Kings Inn was one I put on that 'hit list' before I got elected."

Cashell also said the building has been in escrow before, in the mid 2000's, but the deal fell through. "We thought we had this building taken care of, but it fell apart, so, this time I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch."

The property sits on Third Street at the intersection of West Street. Its history has been riddled with strife and complexity beginning in the mid 1970's. "We did a couple of warrant abatements," Reno Code Enforcement Manager Alex Woodley said. "We went onto the property and performed clean-ups and billed the property."

Still, the complexity of owners and ownership over the years presented a challenge. "Then it went through bankruptcies and foreclosures," said Woodley. "It went through a death of one of the owners. We had multiple owners. Right now my understanding is there are 50 plus investors who now own the building."

The building is currently owned by Kings Inn LLC. The property went dark in the 1980's and has remained abandoned ever since. "In 2011, we got a change in the law from the State Legislature," said Woodley. "It allowed us to pursue tax assessment leins on the properties that owe $5,000 or more in citations and we actually used the Kings Inn as our poster child to get this change in legislation."

Since then, Woodley said the Code Enforcement Team has been aggressively citing the current owners. "So instead of giving one citation, we would write say, 10 to 12 different citations for each day we were addressing a violation."

When asked if he thought this might be part of the reason a deal is now in the works, he said, "I'd like to think that was an incentive for them to sell because it was going up into the thousands of dollars. We were putting them on notice to clean it up and keep it clean."

If a deal is struck, Woodley said the first order of business would be to make immediate cosmetic improvements. "Whether it's painting or resurfacing the exterior, that's going to be the very first thing we ask them to do."

Woodley notes there are many new buildings and many repainted buildings in the downtown core and the Kings Inn sticks out, creating an eyesore. "So, if you look across the skyline, you see all these new, painted buildings. Then we have the Kings Inn in the middle. So, once it's painted it will be an immense improvement to our skyline."

Mayor Cashell said he is in touch with the developer. "We will do everything we can to help him along."

Cashell is hoping a deal will be struck so his campaign promise of 12 years ago, will become a promise kept before he leaves office. "I keep telling him, 'OKk, now you gotta get this done and closed in 120 days,' cause that's how long I'm going to be here."
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