Big plans - and big obstacles - for downtown Kingman's dreamers

Parking, traffic among issues for Kingman's Old Town

Werner Fleischmann rests on a railing inside the lobby of the Brunswick Hotel, which has been stripped down in preparation for renovation. Due to the economy and other factors, it will probably be at least two years before the hotel re-opens, he said. (HUBBLE RAY SMITH/Miner)

Werner Fleischmann rests on a railing inside the lobby of the Brunswick Hotel, which has been stripped down in preparation for renovation. Due to the economy and other factors, it will probably be at least two years before the hotel re-opens, he said. (HUBBLE RAY SMITH/Miner)

KINGMAN - With his thick European accent and expressive hands, Swiss investor Werner Fleischmann describes his plans to restore the Brunswick Hotel and turn downtown Kingman into a destination - but there's a lot that has to happen first, and these kinds of changes don't occur overnight.

In the meantime, however, the hotel's interior has been stripped down to bare wooden floors and walls, a cavernous shell with unlimited possibilities in the eyes of Fleischmann, principal of Fleischmann Immobilien, a real estate investment firm in Wienfelden, Switzerland.

He wants to bring the 36 hotel rooms up to modern standards with energy-efficient windows, central heating and cooling and the sort of bathroom amenities that today's hotel guests deem a necessity.

Most importantly, he wants to maintain the Old West look and feel of the registered national landmark.

"I like to bring it back to 1909," Fleischmann said during a business trip to Kingman in March. "This is the reason why we stripped the carpet. We show the wood and original ceiling. We offer a few very rustic cowboy rooms with an original shower outside of the room. Then of course we have a nice restaurant maybe with a bar on the ground floor."

He has already converted a garage in back of the hotel into two suites with a 1950s-style Route 66 theme.

Standing on the second-floor wooden deck in back of the hotel he purchased in 2012, Fleischmann is asked by a woman passing by when he plans to re-open the Brunswick, and if there are any ghosts lurking in the hotel as lore has it. She told him she wants to stay there.

It'll be at least a couple of years before the hotel is ready to open, he answers politely. As far as ghosts, Fleischmann said he slept a few nights in the hotel and all he heard was the train rumbling down the track on the other side of Andy Devine Avenue.

"I don't think that they will be my guest, but it is nice to have remarks like that," he said. "I see the traveler on Route 66. Bikers, people ... they dream from the past. This could be Americans and Europeans because Route 66 is very popular in Europe."

Downtown traffic

Fleischmann met with city officials during his three-day visit to offer help in finding ways to develop downtown Kingman. He's really keen on narrowing Andy Devine Avenue and slowing down traffic through town.

That's how Williams and other small towns have capitalized on Route 66, he said.

"Kingman is a traffic town, so let's play with the history of the train and Route 66," he said. "But if you are there, you like to walk and see different places, nice restaurants, historic hotels and a good atmosphere. This will attract the people from Kingman and tourists from the United States and Europe.

"Then we need much more additional living and small businesses. Kingman has a perfect location. It is in a sun state, prices are still cheap and there is a perfect place to move."

City Manager John Dougherty said the city council is working on the traffic situation as part of downtown planning.

He really likes Fleischmann's idea about making downtown more pedestrian-friendly with residential lofts above retail storefronts, much like central commercial districts in centuries-old European cities.

However, that's in contrast with American culture, Dougherty noted.

"It means changing our culture here in America to get out of our cars and walk," he said. "Europeans drive smaller vehicles and walk and bicycle far more than Americans."

It's not a "wild idea" to have young professionals living, working and playing in downtown Kingman, but before that happens, the city needs to figure out parking issues, Dougherty said.

"As the downtown revives, it will become a conflict between customers and residents if there is inadequate parking. In my view, this would be a good problem to be working on in the future," he said.

Other plans

Fleischmann also met with architects designing a new roof for Beale Celebrations, another of his downtown properties, and with a prospective tenant for the bakery portion of the ice cream parlor next to the Brunswick.

It was a successful trip, Fleischmann said.

"Good news. We found a family business. They will open a deli and serve sandwiches and a few Mexican specialties," he said.

As for Beale Celebrations, formerly JC Penney's, Fleischmann said his architects came up with a few different ideas to rebuild a new roof and a solution was found. Now the architects are studying ideas for a new façade and shade awnings, and Fleischmann will return in June to review them.

Fleischmann's investment group owns rental properties at 616 and 620 E. Beale St., one of them occupied by B&G Accounting, and earlier this year added another property at 612 E. Beale St. He also owns three buildings at 432 E. Beale St., including the real estate office of Justin Chambers and a hair and nail salon.