City sponsors meeting to discuss downtown redevelopment

Optimism and frustration were two of the extremes expressed by 43 residents meeting Friday to discuss a strategy for revitalizing downtown Kingman.

The optimism came from individual visions of what downtown Kingman could be with the assets, the history, the people and the long stretch of Route 66 that defines the city.

The frustration came from a review of a long list of revitalization studies dating from 1970.

"We do not want to be here in five years discussing why things have not changed," City Manager Roger Swenson said.

"The staff has no magic answers and looks to you for help."

The city council invited others to the annual strategic city planning session to give them ideas and input that could result in a strategic plan.

City staff presented information on the former studies, a virtual tour of downtown and identified people who have a stake in redevelopment.

Swenson used the city purchase of the Mulligan Building on Andy Devine Avenue and its likely demolition as an example of the problem facing Kingman.

"The city is becoming the purchaser of last resort for buildings beyond repair," he said.

"Tempe ended up buying all of the old downtown area and becoming the developer.

Is that what we want in Kingman?"

Scott Dunton said Tempe had people and money to do what they did.

Kingman lacks both at this time.

"We need to let economics work and bring people here, then the other things will work," he said.

"Route 66 is by far the greatest asset we have in Kingman, including downtown."

Dunton said a theme downtown and painting murals on buildings would give tourists a reason to stop in the area.

"We have talented artists and buildings that need painting," he said.

"We need marketing and billboards that let people know what we have.

They know more about us in Japan and Germany then here."

The groups listed many assets for downtown.

Swenson said almost every asset carried a balancing liability.

Robin Gordon, president of the Heritage Committee, said diversity has kept downtown alive.

Afternoon breakout sessions listed strategy ideas from the viewpoint of government, landowners, residents, business owners and tourists.

Several groups cited the need for all governments to get on the same page to plan a strategy for downtown.

The city, county, schools and state agencies all own or rent buildings in the area.

In the past, each located buildings without coordination.

"We have a hodge podge downtown now," City Planning Director Tom Duranceau said.

Location of a county complex has stymied planning for several years.

District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers, state agency staff and school representatives were included in this strategy session.

Downtown resident Carol Decker-Noli expressed the feelings of many participants.

"We have had enough outside studies and lack of action," she said.

"We know the city and what should be done.

Throw the studies out the window and get things done."