Like many other cities, my hometown of Reno, Nev. has seen more and more people leave the suburbs to make their home in a more condensed urban environment to save on housing and gas costs. Several buildings in the downtown Reno corridor have been redeveloped to include housing for city living. Kelly Rae and Pam Haberman of HabeRae Investments Inc. are creating tiny, beautiful urban infill houses while keeping the history of many of these buildings alive.
Kelly and Pam have been redeveloping properties since 1998 and are most well known for their 8 on Center project, but their most recent projects are getting some attention for their tiny size, aesthetics and green design. They have won local awards for historic preservation, environmental design and community improvement.
“Just because a place is small does not mean it should be lacking in style, quality and affordability,” Kelly said.
They were kind enough to take me on a tour of their wonderful little projects which are all within a few miles of each other.
One of their designs is the 2 on Watt project. These little twin houses stand side by side down a back alley in the Old Southwest part of downtown Reno. They are cottage style, with private back yards and public front porches. Both homes have washer/dryer combos, custom tile, beautiful mahogany floors and an abundance of light.
The 2 More on Watt project is down the street and contains two farmhouses from the early 1900s. When Kelly and Pam purchased the property and began to tear down the walls of the smaller farmhouse, the newspapers used for insulation had the date 1915 on them. Some of the newspapers were also in Italian and contained want ads from New York City. Kelly and Pam figured that the houses once belonged to members of a group of Italian immigrants who came to the Reno area during that time.
The smaller farmhouse at the 2 More on Watt location is 160 square feet with a full bath and a studio living and sleeping space. A one piece kitchen unit from A.J. Madison forms the tiny kitchen. The larger house in front is 450 square feet.
HabeRae strives to keep their designs looking like the local aesthetic, but prefer the modern, clean look. They also strive to reuse and recycle everything on their sites including old building materials and rocks and stumps used in landscaping. They even turned a large, discarded satellite dish into a beautiful planter.
One of their other designs, the SoDo 4 (SoDo means South of Downtown in Reno-speak) consists of four brick cottages that were once used to house train engineers who worked on the old Virginia & Truckee Railroad that ran through Reno in the early 1900s. The three studios are 276 square feet with a sleeping loft and the one bedroom house in the back is 350 square feet. They are used now as rentals, but with each project HabeRae designs and builds in private outdoor spaces and gardening areas.
Their latest project has been converting a firehouse from 1953 from a run-down homeless shelter into an urban living and working space that is truly redefining this part of downtown Reno. The 11 at the Firehouse has nine studio units that are 350 square feet with a sleeping loft, full bath and kitchen and stackable washer and dryer. They have attempted to keep as much of the original Art Deco structure as possible, and the original tile floors are still being used. The tenants are a professional group ranging from college professors to attorneys. The bottom floor of the 11 at the Firehouse project is filled in with a funky beauty salon and a deli and coffee shop.
Pam told me that they really want to create another living unit from the hose tower of the firehouse. It would be a single unit with stacked rooms and windows looking out onto downtown and the mountains.
“Our belief is that small, meaningful, well thought out urban infill can infuse a blighted area with wonderful energy. Small places to live and work on a small footprint leave a small impact on this precious earth.”