Between 1996 and 2009, the Lear received $1,416,485 in grant funds from the Commission for Cultural Affairs (now the Commission for Cultural Centers and Historic Preservation). In order to ensure that buildings awarded these grant funds are appropriately maintained and preserved as cultural centers benefitting their communities, the grant requires recipients to enter into covenants with the State of Nevada. These covenants are recorded on the title and run with the property, binding the grant applicant as well as all successors, heirs, assignees, or lessees. They are public documents on file at the Washoe County Recorder's Office.
The covenants are essentially a set of agreements made by the owner for a certain period of time. In the case of the Lear, these covenants are binding through December 31, 2060, at which time they expire. With respect to the current condition and ever-evolving rehabilitation plans for the Lear, the covenants include the following:
- The applicant (i.e., the Lear) agrees to assume the cost of continued maintenance and repair of the property so as to preserve its architectural and historical integrity, in order to protect and enhance those qualities which make it historically significant.
- The applicant agrees that no visual or structural alterations will be made to the property without prior written permission of the State.
- The applicant agrees that the State has the right to inspect the property at any reasonable time to ensure that the conditions of the covenants are being met.
There has been confusion as to whether these covenants can be severed by simply paying back the grant funds to the State, the idea being that if the building owner pays back the grants, they are free to do whatever work they wish to the building without regard for preservation standards. According to the recorded covenants, the only way to sever this agreement is if the courts find any part of it to be illegal; in that case, only those provisions deemed illegal are severed, and the remaining agreements continue. Moreover, the State reserves the right to file suit if the applicant is in violation of any of these covenants; the purpose of the suit would be to cure the violations or obtain the return of grant funds.
In any case, attempting to sever these covenants would be a grave error. Not only would this strategy be wasteful, squandering the preservation work that has been done, but it would likely bring irrevocable harm to the building. Rehabilitation of the Lear must be done properly, according to industry best practices for architectural conservation. The covenants ensure that all work done to the Lear adheres to the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties by requiring that the State Historic Preservation Officer review and approve any proposed construction or rehabilitation activities. The Lear is among Reno's most well-loved community buildings, its quality of design and construction unmatched, with ties to one of America's most significant architects.
It deserves to be done right.