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Ex-Railroad Town, Sparks Braces For Tesla, Switch Boom

Scott Sonner / AP

This Sept. 28, 2015 photo shows the vacant lots north of U.S. Interstate 80 where an urban renewal project with housing and retail space is planned at Victorian Square in Sparks, Nev.

Scott Sonner / AP

(AP) - The promise of thousands of good-paying jobs at the battery factory Tesla Motors is building in northern Nevada is sparking excitement unseen since the Southern Pacific railroad rolled into the sleepy town of Sparks more than a century ago.

Officials say the new demand for housing and other services has helped jumpstart downtown redevelopment plans sitting idle for two decades as the city's population grew to nearly 100,000.

About $60 million worth of new projects broke ground last month, including the makeover of a shuttered casino that will house boutique shops, restaurants and offices. An old hotel is being turned into loft apartments.

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini says it's a chance to get out from under the shadow of Reno.