Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits
Developments of Distinction Awards Nomination
Project Name: Desert Properties
Submitted By: Nevada Rural Housing Authority 


At the junction of U.S. Routes 6 and 95 – and approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno – is Tonopah, Nevada. The Nye County seat, Tonopah has a population of approximately 2,500 people and a median income of $39,000. According to the American Community Survey, up to 42% of Northern Nye households are rent overburdened (paying more than 30% of annual income toward housing costs), indicating a need for affordable housing in the area. 

Nevada Rural Housing Authority (NRHA) addresses the housing needs and enhances the quality of life throughout Nevada’s 15 rural counties and the rural portions of Clark and Washoe County. As a quasi-governmental agency, NRHA receives no allocation of funds through the State budgeting process, simply the mandate to address rural Nevada’s affordable housing needs. NRHA’s jurisdiction extends to any Nevada city or town with a population of 150,000 or less. 

Collectively, NRHA owns twelve affordable housing developments located throughout rural Nevada. Two of these properties, Belmont and Desert Apartments in Tonopah, were recently acquired and rehabilitated by NRHA. This award submission aims to highlight the acquisition, financing and rehabilitation work done for the Desert property, specifically, as it faced extraordinary challenges – challenges NRHA was ready and willing to tackle head on with innovative strategies. 

Project Goals 

The Desert Properties project entailed the acquisition and rehabilitation of two adjoining USDA-RD subsidized housing developments totaling 56 units. The Section 515 properties, Desert Family and Desert Elderly, share a parcel and consisted of 14 two-story buildings built in 1982. Fifty-two of the 56 units received Section 515 project-based rental assistance, and continue to do so, post rehab. The properties are adjacent to the USDA Section 515 property Belmont Apartments, which was rehabilitated simultaneously with Desert Family and Desert Elderly Apartments as separate financing. The larger plan for both complexes also included a new community building (formerly “Twila’s Pack and Tack”) and common area laundry facilities constructed between the two properties, which are now available at both properties through a shared use agreement. The rehabilitation work aimed to address capital items to preserve and extend life; bring units up to modern standards; increase energy efficiency; increase site security and marketability; and address site accessibility deficiencies. 

Market Demand and Benefit to the Community

Between 2010 and 2013, the median household incomes in Tonopah decreased by 29.6%. Meanwhile, multi-family unit rents were an average of $63 per month higher than the rest of rural Nevada. According to the American Community Survey, up to 42% of Northern Nye households are rent overburdened. Additionally, the study found a great need for senior-specific housing: “Between 2013 and 2018, the largest increase among households age groups is projected to be among those between the ages of 65 and 74. Household growth is also occurring at a rapid rate among households age 75 to 84 and 85 and older, indicating an increasing need for senior-specific housing in the market.” 

The rehabilitation of The Desert Properties will prolong the life of these valuable apartments and will renew the USDA-RD subsidy to allow the developments to serve the most at-risk and lowest income residents in Tonopah for an additional 50 years. 

Meeting the Needs of Tenants

The Desert Properties were built in 1982 and share a parcel, with approximately 2.00 acres allotted to the elderly property and 2.04 acres allotted to the family property. Desert Elderly contains 20 one-bedroom units (627 SF) in five two-story buildings. Desert Family consists of 12 one-bedroom units (627 SF) and 24 two-bedroom units (797 SF) in nine two-story buildings. The Desert Properties serve households with incomes at or below 50% of area median income. 

Prior to rehabilitation, the units had extreme deferred maintenance, relatively no improvements or upgrades from when the units were built. All site amenities were worn or damaged by tenants or weather and the general overall appearance of the property was tired and a prime target for a rehab tax credit project. 

Rehabilitated Unit/Complex Features: 

● New heating/cooling system 

● New stairs and railings 

● New Energy Star, double-glazed windows 

● New roofing 

● New door/window trim 

● New exterior LED lighting 

● New fiberglass exterior front doors and storage doors (units) 

● New and additional insulation 

● New exhaust vents in kitchen and bathroom 

● New vinyl plank flooring 

● Ceiling fans in living room and master bedroom 

● New kitchen/bath cabinets 

● New kitchen/bath counters 

● New kitchen stainless sinks 

● Energy Star refrigerator 

● New cooking range 

● New garbage disposal 

● New dishwasher 

● LED lighting upgrading 

● New bathroom sink 

● New toilets 

● New water heaters 

● New smoke detectors 

● 2 units remodeled to be fully accessible 

● Addition of site security cameras 

Project Financing

The project financing for The Desert Properties is key to why this project deserves recognition. The Desert Properties financing included nine sources, and was challenged by a ticking clock and a government shutdown. Additionally, simultaneous acquisition and rehabilitation of the set of properties (Desert and Belmont) allowed for a more cohesive site layout and improvements to parking, site and recreational amenities, including a joint management office. Simultaneous projects also allowed NRHA to be more efficient considering Tonopah’s remoteness – Nevada already suffers a shortage of construction labor, and being able to tackle both projects at the same time drove efficiencies and savings that would have otherwise not been possible. NRHA felt it critical to do the two projects at the same time. 

The total project budget for both properties was approximately $14 million, with The Desert Properties’ development budget coming in at $9.6 million (see full Sources & Uses document attached). The Belmont Properties financing included four sources, including the 9% LIHTC. 

Downtown Gazebo Tonopah

The Middle of Everywhere

Not content to be a drive-through town, Tonopah is leading the charge of change.

In a 1975 story about Tonopah in Nevada Magazine, the writer spent a great deal of space discussing how favorable Tonopah’s climate is for those suffering from various conditions, such as bronchitis, arthritis, rheumatism, and the like. The more than 6,000-foot elevation and the nearly constant dry winds were said to be cures for many an ailment and the reason many people moved to the town. Along with other descriptions that contained no superlatives, the gritty account of life in Tonopah was said to “grow on you.” The title of the story echoed the writer’s marvel at the town’s very existence: “Tonopah Today: The town that wouldn’t die.”

Tonopah die? Think again. Tonopah has reinvented itself numerous times, some might say just for the fun of it and because it could. But whatever you say, this is the truth about Tonopah today: It is in the middle of everywhere.


Many towns in Nevada are pegged as being in the middle of nowhere. But Tonopah is turning that idea on its head. As the halfway point between the state’s two largest population centers and the county seat of massive Nye County, Tonopah may seem remote, but its central location is perfect for those who live there.

“Tonopah is the Paris of central Nevada,” remarks Jordan Dillard, a civil engineer working in Tonopah.

Jordan’s comparison isn’t so far fetched as it may seem; the town’s blinding lights come from the heavens, where the stars are free to shine without being overshadowed; impressive structures are not quite as renowned as the Eiffel Tower, but are no less historically romantic; and its denizens are equally fierce when discussing their hometown pride.

“I want people to say ‘This is Tonopah’ in a positive way, not a resigned way,” Bruce Jabbour says.

Bruce is the senior vice president of operations for North Tonopah Development (NTD) and Tonopah Hospitality Services. He’s been in and out of Tonopah for years, working for the Mizpah when it opened and is now back seeing to a host of projects coming to town. His pride in his adopted hometown is infectious, and it’s a message he spreads to everyone he meets, which is quite a lot of people.

As the onsite manager/host/jack-of-all-trades for NTD’s American Quality Suites property, he’s keeping busy. One of the first signs of life when you’re driving south into Tonopah, the property consists of 20 rental units, a hotel, and 25 RV sites.

Many of the units rent to the cadre of temporary workers that come to town for various projects (SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes solar energy project is the latest big construction event in the area), but recently Bruce opened up two of the units on Airbnb. The units offer two separate bedrooms, plus a shared kitchen, living space, and bathroom, making them perfect for families and couples traveling together who need a little more than a hotel room. While Tonopah currently has about 300 hotel rooms according to Bruce, the near future will bring a host of new properties online. The Sundowner Motel sits at the south end of town and has been closed for more than a decade, but is currently being renovated and will open soon as a major branded hotel, Bruce says. It’s not one of the properties he works for, but he’s happy to report this as it’s all good news for the town.

Bruce’s company is working on a much-needed five-acre travel plaza and bringing a brand new Holiday Inn Express to town. The travel plaza will be a boon to the truck traffic that passes through town each day—the Nevada Department of Transportation estimates about 5,000 vehicles travel U.S. Route 95 through Tonopah each day—and the hotel will be a major draw for tourists. NTD hopes to break ground on both projects this year.


On the flip side of the new development slated for the north end of town, the middle of the historic district is continuing its own revitalization. The renovation and reopening of the Mizpah Hotel in 2011 was the spark that continues to light Tonopah’s fire today. The venerable queen of Tonopah, the Mizpah came back to sumptuous life under the guiding hands of owners Fred and Nancy Cline. Their son Ramsey has breathed life into the Mizpah Club Casino, adjacent to the hotel. Open just two years now, the Mizpah Club has the town’s first gaming ticket system, live music regularly, a café with the coolest hotel key collection possibly anywhere, and the upgrades and additions continue.

The space had many uses over the years, but it wasn’t until the Cline touch was put on it that it became an enhancement to downtown, instead of an eyesore.

“Downtown had so many buildings shuttered,” Ramsey says. “It was just a shame it hadn’t been kept in better condition.”

The success of Tonopah has become very personal for Nancy, Fred, and Ramsey. California natives, the Clines have deep ties to central Nevada as Nancy’s family hails from the area. Her uncle was a prospector who came to town in 1900 and owned a saloon, while her grandmother was the postmistress of Goldfield. Along with the Mizpah Hotel, the Clines also built the Tonopah Brewing Co., which is so tasty it practically demands that craft beer and barbecue fans lengthen their stay in town so they can have at least two meals there.

“Tonopah literally represents an opportunity for us to honor our heritage, as well as the heritage of Nevada. I have learned so much about the tenacity and perseverance of the generation that came west in search of gold and a better life. I have learned how motivated they were, and how they tolerated and eventually conquered the hardships of the desert, and the hardships of the culture,” Nancy says.

Ramsey now lives in town, and is the inspiration behind the new hostel Fred and Nancy opened this year, which they hope will cater to the town’s younger, European visitors. He helms the casino, and is helping his parents on their newest endeavor: remodeling the Belvada.


Built in 1906, just a year before the Mizpah which sits kitty-corner along Main Street, the Belvada began life as a bank, housed a saloon, other banks, and more in the seven decades it was open. It’s been closed a long time, but that doesn’t deter Nancy.

“Tonopah is a living memorial to man’s ability to better himself in the face of the unknown,” she says. “It has been such an honor to restore the incredibly retro basement that comes with glass panels in the sidewalk for lighting and a funky entrance descending from the street-level doors. According to Ramsey, Nancy would like to see something like a coffee shop or bakery in the main retail area, but they would love to have someone else run such a business.

While the structures may be permanent, they do require maintenance and the renovation of the Belvada is no small task. The building houses what is claimed as the first elevator in Nevada, and after a couple decades lying dormant, the cadre of workmen pounding nails, laying wire, and fixing pipe have their work cut out for them if they hope to get the property open next year, as Ramsey optimistically estimates.

The property is set to house hotel rooms, retail space, museum exhibits, and perhaps even a speakeasy-type lounge in the incredibly retro basement that comes with glass panels in the sidewalk for lighting and a funky entrance descending from the street-level doors. According to Ramsey, Nancy would like to see something like a coffee shop or bakery in the main retail area, but they would love to have someone else run such a business.

“Ideally she’d like to rent it out because things do better when you’re trying to look out for your own business,” Ramsey explains. “When you’re trying to run 30 different businesses that aren’t necessarily related, the end product isn’t as good.”


One of the hoped-for effects of revitalization is increased visitors, but less obvious is the idea that it will encourage others to join the effort to breathe new life into Tonopah. Empty storefronts still exist in town, and the Clines and Bruce would all like to see that change. But how do you entice someone to open a new business? And how do you further entice people to not only open a business but perhaps move to Tonopah to do so? In the case of Marc and Tiffany Grigory, it was love at first sight.

The couple lived in Las Vegas until a few years ago, working in the hospitality industry, and barely even knew about Tonopah. With the couple’s first child just a year old, and a second on the way, Marc saw an ad on Craigslist for an old bar in Tonopah, and he couldn’t get it out of his head. A few sleepless nights filled with research about the building and the town, he told Tiffany he wanted to take a look. She laughs as she remembers her very-pregnant response to him, but agreed to take a look.

“We lied to everyone,” she says with a smile. “We didn’t tell anyone we were driving to Tonopah to look at a bar built in 1905 that we might buy. So we met the owner, and after looking around and touring the building, we went back out to our car and we both had tears in our eyes. That was it.”

It’s been three years since they became the owners of the Tonopah Liquor Company, and while moving from Las Vegas to Tonopah required some adjustments, they couldn’t be happier. The couple felt welcomed from the beginning, and the town came out in force on the bar’s opening night.

“They (the people in Tonopah) love their town, and they were so happy we wanted to be here,” Tiffany says.

Marc agrees. “It’s a small town, so it’s different for sure. People here know everything about what you do, but it feels like family,” he says. “People here are so real. Whether you like them or not, they are who they are. Unapologetically, they are who they are. And there’s something so refreshing about that. In the long run, you love them for it.”

Ramsey echos a similar thought when asked about the response he’s gotten from the changes he and his family have made around town.

“You might have a few people who think change is bad, but lots of people come up to me and tell me it’s looking really great. The community does respond positively,” he says.

Ramsey agrees Marc and Tiffany are a great asset. The Tonopah Liquor Company, or TLC as it’s affectionately known by anyone who visits even once, has been around from the beginning and while it’s seen its share of lean years and neglect, today it’s an enticing blend of history and modern influences in a relaxed, inviting setting that anyone would be comfortable visiting. The couple has upped the libation game in town, also, with more than 100 whiskeys to choose from, thanks to Marc’s impressive penchant for the liquor. They even renovated the upstairs quarters, creating beautiful rooms named for the ladies of the evening that once used the building to entertain the town’s miners and prospectors. The Grigorys thought they might live in these rooms, which have a beautiful, modern shared kitchen and living space, but are currently working on how they can offer them to visitors.

“It’s really exciting. We’re so happy to have them up here,” Ramsey says. “They take their business very seriously and put a lot of effort into it.”

“I think there is some trickle down effect to the renovations,” he continues, “but I think there are still folks that are holding back. Hopefully as the economy keeps improving, people are tempted to open up new shops and businesses.” “We didn’t come here to change anything,” Bruce adds. “We came here to add to the town. Something as simple as adding landscaping sends a message to tourists that it’s a cool place, and whether they stay with us or not, it gives them a good feeling about the town.”

Tonopah deserves that good feeling, if not only for what its residents are doing today, but for all the town has meant to its residents in the past.

“I have a quote from my great uncle Harry Ramsey who wrote, ‘I can make my future and provide for my family from the depths and the bounty of the land. I will find enough gold to offer my future wife the quality of life she deserves,’” Nancy says.

“It was a time when that challenge was embraced, and Tonopah to us represents that last frontier. We honor the simplicity of yesterday by restoring a town that epitomizes all the qualities, both bad and good, that made it possible for thousands of pioneers to dream and succeed in making a better life for themselves.”

Her sentiments are exactly why Tonopah should never be called a town in the middle of nowhere. It is a town in the middle of everywhere.