RENO, Nev. (AP) — The University of Nevada, Reno has completed the $18 million sale of about one-tenth of its half-century-old research farm for commercial development on one of the last big, undeveloped parcels zoned for industrial-retail use within the Reno city limits.
The university plans to spend some of the proceeds from the 104 acres (42 hectares) — more than $173,000 per acre ($458,571 per hectare) — on new campus laboratories and advanced research into wetlands and range improvements for livestock.
It finalized the deal on Monday with Reno Land Inc., which already is building a pair of master-planned communities at a former Reno shopping center and on ranchland that was owned by casino mogul Bill Harrah.
The agricultural research and outreach center along the Truckee River about 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of downtown dates to 1956. It is operated by the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station within the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.
"This proposed land sale was initially controversial among our various stakeholders for understandable reasons," said Bill Payne, dean of the college, said Wednesday.
But he said the sale allowed the university to "pursue goals that would have otherwise taken us many years to realize."
Payne added: "We're excited to be moving forward with our investments that will have a direct positive impact on agriculture in Nevada and around the world."
The city rezoned the land in 2013 to include uses for a business park, commercial or office space.
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Chip Bowlby, president and CEO of Reno Land Inc., said the company most likely will build more than a million square feet (90,000 sq. meters) of industrial, warehouse and retail space.
"It's one of the last large industrial-retail properties in the heart of Reno," he told the Reno Gazette Journal. "We're very happy that we were able to sit down with the university and make this a reality."
Opponents of the rezoning complained the property sits in a flood plain, where more than 300 research sheep drowned in a 2005 flood.
Besides being used for raising hundreds of sheep and cattle, the land has been used to study noxious weeds, alternative crops and urban horticulture. It also is home to Wolf Pack Meats, a meat processing plant where students are taught meat sciences.
The sale was approved earlier by the state Board of Regents, along with a plan that allows the university to reinvest the money in other projects and enter into a conservation easement for most of the remainder of the farm. The farm still covers more than 800 acres (324 hectares), but another 40 acres (16 hectares) could be sold, the school said.
Among other things, money from the sale will allow the university to develop research capabilities at a wetlands site northwest of Reno and launch a new Agriculture Center for Range and Sheep Improvement.
The sale proceeds will also fund construction of a new classroom building at the main station field lab and renovation of the 50-year-old chemistry and physics lab building on the main campus.