ROSE COLORED GLASSES, OPTIMISTIC PESSIMISM, AND A DISTORTED VIEW – WELCOME TO KINGMAN

Fanciful murals at Ramada Kingman
Be it Route 66, the state of the nation, city government, or discerning the chances of long term job security, it is often difficult if not impossible to get an accurate picture of the situation. Our view of the future, and even the present is often tainted or distorted by the chronic wearing of rose colored glasses, buying into carefully marketed deception, a lack of accurate information, a distorted view, or a philosophy of life built on a foundation of optimistic pessimism. 
As an example, consider the current presidential campaign or the steering committee for the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative. Personal views on either one are tainted for a wide array of reasons. 
I wrote this preface to address an issue, or series of issues that recently cropped up in the City of Kingman. Not surprisingly, some of these are also issues that often hinder other municipalities, as well as the international Route 66 community.
With the creation of a neon trimmed Art Deco
facade, Beale Celebrations Event Center,  a
J.C. Penny’s in the 1950’s, will be a showpiece.

In Kingman, as with many communities throughout America, the last decades of the 20th century were not kind to the cities historic core. There was a spread of suburbia across the Hualapai Valley, the interstate highway bypassed Route 66 that had funneled traffic through town instead of around it, an obsession for strip malls and box stores, and cookie cutter chain restaurants decimated the traditional business district.

Century old hotels that once provided service to celebrities and notables, and motels that were AAA recommended became flop houses before closure and abandonment. Stores closed, reopened as thrift stores or Salvation Army centers, and then were left empty at the mercy of vandals, the homeless, and the elements. In time, the surrounding residential district began to mirror the business district.
In general, the city turned a blind eye to the area, and instead focused resources on the development of strip malls and suburbs. On occasion, there would be a wave of preservationist movements and though they were often built on good intentions, seldom did they do more than call public attention to the decline of the cities historic core. 

After heavy investment of time and money, a
1950’s era supermarket, most recently a
Salvation Army Thrift Store, will soon
reopen as a cross fit training center. 

To revitalize an historic district, to restore economic vitality to a business district made irrelevant by Walmart and strip malls requires more than good intentions in city government or at the chamber of commerce or at the Lions Club. There has to be a reawakening of a sense of community. 
The renaissance of the historic core of Kingman can easily be pinned on one particular event, the Route 66 International Festival in the summer of 2014. The original organizers quit. The chamber of commerce was in disarray. Tourism was short staffed. The sanctioning body for the event, the Route 66 Alliance, came up short and was unable to provide assistance. It looked as though the event would be an unmitigated disaster. 
Then a core of dedicated people within the community came together. The Route 66 community rallied behind the endeavor. The end result was a fairly successful event, creation of a sense of community and community purpose, and a realization at the city level that the popularity of Route 66 had the potential to be the catalyst for transformation in the historic district as well as along the Route 66 corridor. 

A recent article published by the Kingman Standard

Fast forward to the modern era. A diverse array of events, street parties, and festivals are now a common occurrence downtown, and in the evenings sidewalk cafes do a booming business. We are fortunate to have a city government that is passionate about revitalizing the historic center center, and that is providing visionary leadership. 
Some property owners are repairing facades and roofs, and renting buildings. From throughout the world investors are purchasing and renovating buildings. 
The Route 66 Association of Kingman has launched a neon sign restoration initiative. An historic preservation committee has been activated. 
The historic State Theater, most recently a cluttered warehouse masquerading as an antique store, has sold and is being renovated as a performing arts center. The decades long dormant Kingman Club is booming as the House of Hops, and the owners removed a building next door with severe foundation issues as they plan on expansion. 
A former garage at the rear of the Brunswick Hotel are now luxury suite apartments. Black Bridge Brewery is garnering accolades from throughout the state. 
Ignite Marketing has launched the innovative Kingman Circle, a pooled resource marketing initiative. Before the end of this month, four new businesses will open in the historic business district, two of which will be in long dormant buildings.

The remains of the pre-1900
building referenced in the
article. 

Tragically, as some property owners have neglected buildings for decades, and some still avoid the most basic of repairs, the city has been forced to take harsh measures to ensure that the revival is not stifled or hindered by urban decay. On occasion, this means that demolition of an historic building is the only option, if for no other reason than public safety. 
Surprisingly, there are a few who choose to focus on the losses rather than the successes. The above article recently published in The Kingman Standard is a glaring example. 
The pre-1900 building referenced in the article was far beyond repair. It was an eyesore and a public safety hazard. 
One wall had collapsed two decades ago. All that remained was the rear of the building that had once been storerooms. 
Its demolition was symbolic of the dawning of a new era. With blessings from the property owner, Scott Dunton, president of the Route 66 Association of Kingman, formed a coalition of construction company owners, demolished the remains of the structure, hauled away the debris, paved the lot, added the first in a series of murals, and the Running Hare sculpture. An eyesore had been transformed into a symbol of renewal. 
For those who hunger for the transformation of their communities historic district, or that are frustrated by the speed of revival, take heart. Even with opposition, if there is a sense of community and community purpose, if there is passion and leadership, there will be a renaissance.            

     

  
  
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