Plan calls housing issues critical to downtown's future

Housing issues cannot be separated from the commercial and government issues in any plan to revitalize historic downtown Kingman according to the Action Zone Strategic Plan.

The plan was developed in the spring of 2000 through a series of public hearings involving residents and business owners in the downtown area and compiled by city staff as part of a grant application for a $1 million state grant.

The money was not received, but the studies and input of people in the area did identify some actions that would move the area forward.

The area had a population of 2,195 in May 2000 with 81 percent determined to fit into federal guidelines for low to moderate income families.

The 2000 census figures confirmed the population.

The boundaries of the area included in the grant were from El Trovatore Hill on the east and Interstate 40 at the west end of downtown.

The north and south boundaries were at the current city limits.

Andy Devine Avenue and Beale Street and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks intersect the area.

Increased numbers of affordable houses and upgrading the older and marginal housing stock were a top priority.

Bill Shilling, Kingman grant administrator, said both the mailed survey and the public meetings named housing improvements as a key to revitalization of downtown.

"Fundamental housing problems stem both from poor maintenance and faulty workmanship, as well as poor initial construction methods," the report states.

"Additionally, many older structures were built prior to the adoption or enforcement of building codes.

Specific housing problems include poor or inadequate insulation, substandard or broken swamp coolers and air conditioners, defective roofs, no or poor foundations and faulty or failing electrical and plumbing systems."

Kingman building official George Lutz said his department is first concerned about safety and health issues.

Fire safety, water, gas, sewer and electrical and plumbing systems are priorities.

"If we see a condition that is life threatening to the residents, we have to do something," he said.

Shilling has directed a program to rehabilitate homes for low to moderate-income homeowners in the city with a focus on the downtown area.

Up to $15,000 grants can make safety and health repairs, including roofs, insulation, electrical and plumbing items.

"The program has helped many with Community Development Block Grants," Shilling said.

"Sometimes we are limited because the house needs more than $15,000 in repairs or is in such disrepair that renovation will not solve the problem.

Lutz said the property has to have something to build on.

"We really cannot do anything when the housing has no foundation and therefore no place to begin," he said.

Shilling said the CBDG program does not answer all the needs and other alternatives for financing and doing repairs would be helpful.

There are areas of downtown with good housing that has been well maintained over the years.

Before I-40 was opened, historic downtown was where most of Kingman's residents lived.

Very little new construction has been done in recent years, Lutz said.

The residents of the area also identified public transit, keeping the county seat in downtown Kingman and clean up of the area through better code enforcement as priority needs in May 2000.

A public transportation study was completed by the city after May 2000 and a transportation coordinator hired and grants applications sent.

The target date for buses rolling, including downtown, is April 2003.

Mohave County has an architect planning a new sheriff's office in downtown Kingman at the armory site next to the Mohave County Jail Annex.

Funds from the Mohave County sales tax for new buildings have been collected to pay for the structure.

The city has made a commitment to help the county with incentives to build in Kingman and the signature drive to move the county seat has stalled.

A code enforcement officer was funded and hired by Kingman since May 2000.

Officer Carl Allen has assisted with two major clean up efforts in downtown Kingman as part of a citywide effort to enforce trash codes and improve neighborhood appearances in Kingman.

The Kingman Planning Department is developing a new General Plan for the city under the state mandate from Growing Smarter legislation.

The downtown area is the final neighborhood public hearing scheduled.

Planner Rich Ruggles will present three alternatives at the Wednesday April 24 hearing at 310 Fourth St.

The hearing will give the residents, property owners and business owners another opportunity to discuss priorities for the area.