Candidates differ on ways to revitalize downtown but agree it must be done
All four candidates running for two council seats in the May 16 general election agree that a revitalized downtown Kingman is important.
However, they differ on what it will take to get the job done.
The decision, by way of a 2-1 vote, by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors to limit the consultant study of possible Law and Justice Center sites to one and eliminate all sites within the Kingman city limits was a disappointment to all four.
The Shinarump Road site near Aztec Road, off the McConnico Exchange of Interstate 40 west of Kingman, was selected by the supervisors.
The site is 8-9 miles from Kingman and would leave the downtown area without the new Law and Justice Center.
"I am disheartened," said Monica Gates.
"Kingman did not get the opportunity to express the advantages of keeping it where it is."
"Revival of downtown is still important and we must find a way to jump start and energize the process," she said.
Gates said downtown needs a "personality, a theme, some continuity and uniformity." Attitude and vision are more important than dollars, Gates said.
Frank McVey said the base site at Shinarump will be costly because water, sewer treatment and other infrastructure must be developed.
"It will show as more costly than other sites if the consultants figure all the costs," McVey said.
"The door may not be closed."
He said a location in the vicinity of Kingman would not have a "crisis" effect because the workers will still live here.
He expects the downtown post office to be "devastated" by such a move, however.
It could make downtown business development easier by freeing some county-occupied buildings and making land costs less expensive for a retail center downtown, McVey said.
"Disappointing" was Jerry Hawkins' reaction.
"It is misleading for the supervisors to appoint a nine-member citizen committee to narrow the sites to three, then ignore their recommendations," Hawkins said.
The positive side, he said, is the employees of the county who live in Kingman will not need to move or lose their jobs.
Kingman would keep the employment base.
Paul McCormick said the supervisors misunderstood the reasons Kingman wanted to keep the buildings downtown.
"The view that we were being selfish was an incorrect point of view," he said.
"Downtown Kingman is the most feasible site because the infrastructure is in place, other county services and the jails are close.
The center could be phased in more economically in Kingman."
He said the good part is employees of the county will not need to relocate.
Each of the candidates voiced support of the downtown Action Zone and excitement about the $1 million grant application that could be funded following the current planning phase.
McCormick said the Action Zone meetings have been positive and will help the city in the application process for the Community Development Block Grant.
He pointed to current council action that will chip seal 15 downtown streets in the next year, add 40 downtown sidewalk projects, install new sewer lines over the next five years and has drilled a new well supplying 200 gallons of water per minute to downtown.
Hawkins is excited about the Action Zone and welcomes the citizen input.
A citizen/council coalition will make things change for the better he said.
Citizens play an important role in the beginning, helping the council make the right plans.
McVey said he sees citizen input as critical to changing downtown.
As a long-term resident of the area who walks his dog on the streets every day, McVey said he sees the needs and issues first-hand.
More business would bring sales tax revenue to the city and tourism is the way to get the business.
McVey said he sees people walking downtown with cameras and maps.
Route 66 is a key and Kingman is the biggest attraction on Route 66, he said.
The Powerhouse Visitor Center, the Route 66 Museum and the historic buildings along Andy Devine Avenue are essential to the downtown as a tourist attraction, he said.
Gates said no barriers should be put up for a new downtown.
She said the thinking needs to change to a "can do" attitude.
She points to successful redevelopments in Palm Springs that put up no vacancy signs in five years and her experience as a hotel manager in cites that made changes.
Gates has a business downtown and said she wants to see the area become a place where people will go at night as well as day.
"We have to find our own answers," she said.
"No one is going to come to town and solve the problems for us."
Asked about tourism, historic buildings and energizing the old town, McVey said as many buildings as possible sould be kept.
The Brunswick is a success, however, the Hotel Beale needs to be saved in some form and the storefront along that block kept, even if a parking lot is behind them.
He said part of the old motor court should be kept as a reminder of the old Route 66.
He said the schools downtown are a big asset.
Gates said she wants an economic development plan and strategy developed that can begin small and develop a theme.
The new antique stores, coffeehouse and small stores on the east end of Beale are part of an idea for a theme for the area she said.
Good leadership will define a clear concept and vision for downtown that people can get behind, Gates said.
Hawkins said downtown needs a long term commitment and plan from the city and the staying power to make it work.
It needs to be cleaned up with more retail, housing and transportation.
Route 66 and the museum are keys.
He would have the city look at successes in Old Yuma, Flagstaff and Prescott for ideas that might work in Kingman.
McCormick said economic development plans in Kingman should include a strategic plan for downtown, He would like to see more retail, a food and drug store, more parking and a way to preserve as many old buildings as feasible.