City officials study separate code for historic buildings

Kingman officials are looking into a separate building code for historic buildings as one way to spur development in the downtown area.

"This could be one way for the city government to remove some of the barriers to restoration of historical structures," City Manager Roger Swenson said.

"Bringing older structures to current codes can make renovation costly."

City building official George Lutz said much code enforcement is mandated by federal and state regulations.

"Safety and health issues are always first," Lutz said.

"When we see an unsafe structure, we have to do something."

Lutz said the American Disabilities Act can require costly changes of older buildings.

State fire codes add additional requirements.

The third set of requirements comes from environmental rules, including the septic and sewer requirements of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

"All that comes even before we get to any Kingman city decisions," Lutz said.

There also is the problem of asbestos in many structures.

Removal is necessary and must be done by following strict procedures and disposed of by licensed contractors, Lutz said.

City planner Rob Owens has collected historic building codes from across the United States as research of options available for Kingman.

The encouraging aspect of his research is what is happening in other Arizona cities, Owen said.

"Flagstaff and Prescott are examples of cities that have successfully renovated historic buildings in similar ways to what we think we want in Kingman," he said.

"We need to figure out how they have done it."

Kingman grant administrator Bill Shilling has experience with codes and renovation of historic buildings in downtown Kingman.

For the Boys and Girls Club of Kingman, upgrade of the historic Girls Gym took longer and cost more than expected primarily because of asbestos removal and American Disabilities Act requirements.

The ADA required accessible bathrooms and a lift to the stage level.

The city renovated the historic Hubbs House south of the railroad for use as a Head Start center using Community Development Block Grant funds.

Mayor Les Byram called the project a "good example of renovating a historical building and putting to a good current use."

Shilling remembers the challenges of making the project fit within the various code requirements and maintaining the historical aspects of the building.

Two major renovation projects envisioned in the historic center of downtown Kingman are the Beale Hotel and the old Commercial store building on Fourth Street.

"Bringing those buildings to current code requirements for projected new uses is a challenge," City Planning Director Tom Duranceau said.

"They are key structures for the area."

Owen said the city has not established a deadline for adoption of a historic building code.