Downtown Kingman Streetscape Project hangs in the balance

Published by The Bee News

January 16, 2023

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Downtown Kingman is where you can find the heart and corridor of small restaurants, shops, and even a couple breweries.  The city had big plans on enhancing this section of the city, but not all residents are happy.  Let’s take a look at both sides to the discussion.

Originally approved and funded in 2020 through the American Rescue Plan, this project was set to be breaking ground in Q1 of 2023.  The project included revitalizing Beale Street by improving walkability, safety, and aesthetics all while maintaining the historic character. These improvements would include: ADA compliant sidewalks, ADA ramps and ADA driveways, improved storm drainage, adding drought tolerant landscaping, way-finding, street furniture, bike racks, better street lighting, bump-outs, clearly marked crosswalks, and mid block crossings.

The studies into this project have been extensive including looking at other communities in the Southwest like Williams, Prescott, and even Bend Oregon that have successfully completed downtown revitalization projects such as this one planned for Kingman.

Not all of the community nor all of City Council are in favor of the project suggesting the funding be allocated towards roadway repair and maintenance said Mayor Ken Watkins. Local business owner Scott Dunton said in an email to The Bee, “The trees hide the murals, our neon signs and businesses and make leaves and bird nuisances. You are going to spend 7 million dollars to make it worse! Fix the streets!”.

We looked deeper into the project by looking at other communities around the country and southwest specifically to find the true results of such projects.  Here were the findings:

The project identified a few local communities as reference to similar streetscape initiatives that have been completed over the last few years. Those communities are Bend OR, Prescott AZ, and Williams AZ. Each of these communities have implemented multiple facets of the project that have been great additions to their downtown corridor’s including:

  • Bend, OR: Intersection Pavers, Curb Bump-out, Street Trees, Direction Ramps, Acorn Lights, Mid-block crossings, shade trees, diagonal parking
  • Prescott, AZ: Diagonal Parking, Paving, Tree Grate, Edge Stripe, Acorn Lights, Site Furnishings, Wayfinding kiosk, mid-block paver crosswalk with planter/curb buffer
  • Williams, AZ: Diagonal Parking, Signage, Sidewalk Pavers, Acorn Lights, Planters

As in these examples there are many common trends in the streetscape projects.  We dug a little deeper and look into other communities from around the country to see if these common traits aligned with other streetscape programs.

One study by Sara Bratcher from ASU examined communities investing into their downtowns to determine what the “Blueprint Guide to Successful Downtown Revitalization” would be. Sara does a great job boiling down the points that make the investment into a downtown a success. These points are defined as:

Qualitative Success (Physical Attributes, Downtown Brand):The issue of qualitative success is defined as those actions that enhance or add qualities to an area and cannot be measured, but are rather visually observed. The physical character of a downtown needs to have characteristics which enhance the overall quality of a downtown, while enticing people to spend time in the area. (Ferguson, 2005).

Legislative/Governmental Success:Legislative actions by the government at all levels are the final theme, which runs with the success defining elements of revitalization. Legislative actions infuse the revitalization process through a variety of methods; individual project application, planning and zoning actions and ordinances. The inclusion of these elements can have a tremendous effect on the process of revitalization and its timeline, which in turn affects the overall success. The combination of efforts by municipal planners, politicians, the public, and the development community has been shown to increase the quality of buildings and sense of place within a city (Warson, 2006). The following list is just a few legislative elements defining successful revitalization, which were reiterated by professionals and academics.

Partnerships: One of the most repeated defining elements of success is the private/public partnerships (Leinberger, 2005). With effective partnerships a variety of projects can be completed in the downtown area, which serve both the private developer and the overall goals of the city in reference to the type of project it may be. These can include anything from developer incentives to zoning and ordinance assistance Public/Private partnerships revolve around the encompassing of government subsidies towards private development projects. Within the context of this report it is an act between the government and a private developer, where as the private entity receives funding incentives from the government entity. These funds are based off a contract between the two parties where government will provide specific incentives if the private entity provides agreed upon development.

Success as a Sense of Place: Based upon the success defining elements within the categories of qualitative, quantitative and legislative elements, “sense of place” has been used as the universal definition of success within the report. A sense of place does not have a clear definition, but rather takes into account a variety of elements, which creates a specific identity for a location. Sense of place elements have included; historic elements, economic diversity, cultural and pedestrian amenities, and overall attractiveness to visitors (Robertson, 1999). The sense of place has been looked at as containing quantitative, qualitative, and legislative elements. If all three elements were not found within a revitalization effort it is not considered a successful project within the scope of this report. A downtown also needs to contain functional necessities as a component to be designated successful within this report. Functional necessities encompass a courthouse, post office, library, theatre and stores all within close proximity to each other (Gratz, 1998). These services relate to the business, government, and tourist activities of a downtown.

This study into downtown redevelopment continues into a 100+ page study including diving deeper into communities in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tucson, AZ, Austin, Texas and El Paso Texas. We found one primary common thread with each community, they started with the downtown districts. Each community began with an overhaul of their downtown streets, ensuring the amenities, history, and culture were aligned with the City’s mission to be a better place for folks to live, bring business to, and thrive in. This combination of aesthetic appeal, functional design, and community identity allowed for the increase in not only tourism, but local pride and a “Sense of Place”. This spawned re-investment from the private sectors of all of the above communities and expanded the business districts creating a mix use downtown of retail, arts, and professional spaces. The project named “Rio Nuevo” for the City of Tucson has been an enormous success economically in the last few years.The City of Tucson’s comprehensive downtown revitalization plan is helping bring new attractions, housing, commercial development and restaurants to downtown as well as preserving and enhancing the already important art and historic elements of the downtown. During the past three years, investment commitments to downtown have reached more than half a billion dollars.

In conclusion, after we investigated over 20 cities across America to determine the value of investments into their downtown initiatives, we could only find definitive up sides.  The cost to benefit ratios are off the charts across the board. Study after study by not only municipalities, government, but also universities have all shown the same results. When implemented correctly following the principles and paths that other successful communities have created, a downtown revitalization project is a buzz of economic results and generates the excitement and pride the communities themselves are hungry for. We hope that Kingman Arizona takes this path for a successful downtown. The city of Kingman will be reviewing these plans on Jan 17th at 5pm during a City Council Meeting (310 N. 4th Street Kingman, Arizona 86401). We are encouraging the public to attend if you want to have a voice in the matter.


 

 

Studies Sources and Facts:

Kingman Downtown Project Scope

ASU Master’s Program Project by Sara Bratcher

Tucson Strategic Plan

EPA Study into small towns utilizing asset to build their economies
Bend, Oregon (population 79,000).
• Douglas, Georgia (population 12,000).
• Dubuque, Iowa (population 58,000).
• Emporia, Kansas (population 25,000).
• Mount Morris, New York (population 2,900).
• Paducah, Kentucky (population 25,000).
• Roanoke, Virginia (population 98,000).

National research suggests that successful downtowns plan for a tree canopy of at least 15%. An increase in street trees and shaded areas can increase property values, provide for energy savings and improve air quality, as well as help absorb rainfall and reduce stormwater runoff. Healthier and more abundant street trees can improve the overall appearance of downtown. Property value increase estimated $300 per tree.

Source: https://www.wheaton.il.us/DocumentCenter/View/243/Downtown-Wheaton-Strategic-Plan-and-Streetscape-Plan-PDF

Bike Racks: The US Green Building Council sets standards for neighborhood development which recommend a minimum of one bicycle parking space per business. The standard U Racks or variations thereof are recommended for the ease of use and bike security, allowing for two contact points between the bike and the rack for ease of locking and stability

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