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Reno, NV

Activating a downtown event plaza

The Project

In 2005, the City of Reno lowered 2 miles of railroad tracks that once cut through downtown. The Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor (or ReTRAC), originally proposed in 1940, created an enormous concrete cap over the railbed intended to improve the overall quality of life in Reno, both by reducing noise and exhaust fumes and creating a new public space in the heart of downtown Reno. Designed to be a central component of the city, the original plans envisioned a large greenway and entertainment spine, but when the recession hit in 2008 the project was forced to halt.

After more than a decade-long-wait, a variety of partners came together to enhance the ReTRAC East Plaza concrete and dirt space between the Whitney Peak Hotel and Eldorado Resort Casino on Virginia Street. Artist Brad Carney was selected to paint an 18,000 square foot mural along one section of the ReTRAC spine. The bright and playful mural, titled “Locomotion,” was designed to reflect features of northern Nevada, like the Truckee River, the state flower Sagebrush, nearby mountain ridges, elements of the Reno flag and the Reno Arch, and a reference to the train tracks that run below the space. The City advertised time slots for residents to participate in installing the mural, and 300 volunteers came out to paint over the course of a week. In addition to the mural itself, the City planted trees and landscaping along the edges of the plaza to create a greener and more welcoming space. The City plans to maintain the mural for 3 years and then assess whether it needs to be repainted.

How This Asphalt Art Project Transformed a Plaza

“This bright and vibrant 18,000 square foot ground mural will allow participants to discover joy in downtown Reno. The design was intended to be played with, staged, and transformed into whatever large-scale event or intimate setting.” 

Brad Carney, artist



Number of Installations


Installation Dates

June 7-15, 2021

Lead Partners

City of Reno Arts, Culture and Events

Downtown Reno Partnership

Omega Landscaping


Lead Artist

Brad Carney


Sherwin Williams Armorseal Treadplex

Square Footage of Artwork



Design: $5,000

Labor: $5,000

Supplies: $15,000





Use the slider to see the transformation


Best Practice Highlight: Creating a welcoming space for community events

The primary goals of the revitalized plaza involve activating the plaza through events and other ways of engaging residents. The City has planned a slate of events throughout the year, kicking off with the annual Reno Pride Parade.

The space will host a variety of annual special events such as BBQ, Brews, and Blues; Hot August Nights; Street Vibrations; and the Italian Festival. With the new mural and other improvements in landscaping around the space, the City is hoping to have the plaza utilized more regularly for community events such as pop-up art festivals, craft fairs, holiday events, performances and concerts, farmers markets, and food trucks. The plaza will be featured as a destination in the City’s annual Winter Light Festival.


Downtown Reno beautification project moved forward (Informed Infrastructure, June 23, 2021)

Downtown train trench cover now called ‘Locomotion Plaza’ with completion of mural (Reno Gazette Journal, June 11, 2021)

Walking on Sunshine (Reno News & Review, June 5, 2021)

Taking Art to the Streets, Just Look Down (The New York Times, May 20, 2021)

What’s Up Downtown: Making our mark downtown with ReTRAC Plaza (Northern Nevada Business Weekly, May 4, 2021)

City of Reno approves $130K donation agreement for enhancement project in downtown (KRXI-TV FOX, August 27, 2020)

For inspiration and tips for the creation of art on roadways and public places, download the Bloomberg Associates Asphalt Art Guide which features successful plaza and roadway art activations around the world, as well as key steps for developing such projects.

Asphalt Art Guide