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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
12:17 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Column: Solutions can be found for downtown

Instead of shooting the messenger who highlighted problems with the lack of tourism, maybe what people should do is address their concerns to city officials, the Downtown Merchants Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the business owners, and yes, the property owners of old downtown Kingman.

I take my hat off to the Downtown Merchants Association, the Kingman Route 66 Association and various businesses that are attempting to attract residents and tourists to old downtown Kingman. A prime example of their efforts was the recent Chillin' On Beale Street events that attracted more than 400 visitors.

From an outward appearance, it appears what some of the property owners are doing is just pursuing a Band-Aid-effect effort on their part and are not addressing the long-term goals, problems and solutions. They especially are not thinking what it takes to encourage residents and tourists to visit old downtown.

However, Joe Ott, owner of the Central Commercial Building, did a wonderful job of restoring it to pristine condition and it now houses a furniture store. Also, look at what Ott's rejuvenation did to his buildings that are on the south side of Beale between 4th and 5th streets. His efforts epitomize the true meaning of revitalization of historical areas.

I believe the property owners of the other parcels in old downtown Kingman should take lesson from Ott's "playbook" and work on making their buildings something they would be proud of and what might entice residents and tourists to visit there.

If you take a good look at some of the older buildings in old downtown, you will see some of them are ready to fall down if a good stiff wind blew on them, and some don't actually have foundations. There is even one business that if you peer through its front window and look up at the ceiling, you'll see daylight shinning through the corrugated tin roof. I guess when it rains, they have to break out the tarps to protect the merchandise and equipment.

Am I saying there are no quick-fix remedies for the old downtown area and the lack of tourists heading into the central core area of old downtown? No, but what I want everyone to know is there's a problem existing and something has to be done about it.

Most of the tourists who happen to venture into Kingman get off of Interstate 40 or U.S. Highway 93 and head toward old downtown Kingman. When they get to the stop light at the corner of Beale Street and Andy Devine Avenue, they may decide to drive onto Beale Street hoping that something will catch their eye and cause them to stop and spend some of their hard-earned money.

As they drive on Beale, the first things they see are the well-manicured Charles Metcalfe and Locomotive parks - a good start.

However, when they get to the blinking red light at the four-way stop, they peer down the street and only see government buildings on the left and a transmission repair facility on the right. There isn't anything to make them want to continue down Beale.

Many of these visitors then decide to stop to take a picture in front of the locomotive, have lunch at Mr. D'Z and then head out of town. Many of these tourists don't even realize there might be a shop or store on Beale or another street within the confines of old downtown that might cater to their needs.

Maybe a short-term solution of informing the tourists that there are other businesses downtown could be nice billboards or signs strategically located on Andy Devine directing them there. Signs on I-40, prior to the Andy Devine/93 off-ramp on the west end of town, the Andy Devine off-ramp on the east end of town and on both sides of I-40 at the Stockton Hill off-ramps would be excellent mediums to advertise old downtown and the shops located there.

There is a large billboard on 93 just prior to entering Kingman that welcomes travelers, but it doesn't mention the fact that there are stores in old downtown for their shopping pleasure.

And this lack of enthusiasm is also shared by many Kingman residents who say they do not shop in old downtown Kingman. A recent poll on the Miner Web site showed that 64 percent of the residents never shop in old downtown.

Maybe the city should do as other towns have done with their revitalization projects of historical areas. They made certain streets for "pedestrians only" and widened the sidewalks so there is adequate room for sidewalk café and coffee shop tables with umbrellas. Turn areas where there had previously been blacktop into lush grassy areas with benches so the elderly and not so motivated husbands would have a place to sit while their mates were spending money in the shops and stores.

Small kiosks could be strategically located throughout the center-grassy areas and could have electricity to them so the merchants could have electronic signs to advertise their products and merchandise. At least two to three of the full-time vender-oriented kiosks could be located within each block, thus generating more foot traffic.

The city doesn't have to block off the entire Beale Street or other streets in one big major improvement project. They could do one block at a time. An excellent choice for the first "block renovation" would be Beale between 4th and 5th streets. It only takes vision, motivation and, of course, funds to complete the project. If they look hard enough, they might even find a grant or two to help fund the project.

At least people are beginning to discuss the old downtown problems, possible solutions and the lack of motivation by people to shop and visit there. Some new businesses are opening their doors and people are talking about possible ways to correct the deficiencies of the area.

Be part of old downtown's progressive movement and do something about it. Get involved with the revitalization of our historical old town!