"By Ken O'Toole"
"Beautiful downtown Cottonwood? Smile when you say that, pardner."
"But the smiles are steadily creasing into active concern among downtown merchants as developments at the south end of town continue to lure business establishments to the area around what is known as Sawmill Village. The imminent opening of the new Babbitt's shopping center etches even deeper frowns. What's the problem? What's to be done?"
"The general consensus was crystalized in a community appearance committee report prepared for study for the town council last July. Among its recommendations was an appeal for a drastic improvement in appearance for the downtown area. The committee felt this would be instrumental in the attraction of additional businesses to the area and offer some incentive to the tourist trade. The end result, they felt, could only be an improved economic base for downtown Cottonwood."
"The committee expressed optimism, based on the fact that some new businesses had come to downtown Cottonwood. This resulted in the face-lifting and refurbishing of some of the older buildings. But for the best long term benefits, they urged a wholesale face-lifting for the whole district."
"But how is it to be done?"
"'Well, town hall can't just go in and tell them (businessmen and downtown) property owners what to do,' said Town Manager Jon Denver. He said the town had a few ordinances dealing with general trash collection and clean up policies. But as for further appearance stipulations, he said, 'I'm not even sure if they would be legal. We might be accused of discriminating.'"
"But there is growing interest among downtown merchants, he said, in forming a downtown face-lifting project."
"'There is nothing definite on this yet,' he said, 'but we do have high hopes of getting them together on this.' A number of them have been getting together, he said, 'in twos and threes' on an informal basis to discuss the problems of the downtown area."
"A viable working group on this project might even be eligible for a federal grant of some sort,' he said. 'This possibly would have to be investigated further. We need to present a united front on this for it to be really effective.' He added that this might well result in the development on an 'appropriate common theme' for the area, such as the western-front recently proposed to the town council for inclusion in the town's master plan."
"The comprehensive planning citizens' committee advised the council this fall that the town should assist in improving the appearance of downtown Cottonwood 'keeping the historical values in our present architecture' and developing other buildings with a western-style front."
"It also recommended the appointment of an architectural board to review plans for restoration, remodeling and new construction."
"Town participation in the project, the committee proposed, could be through reducing taxes on properties in the area (with special zoning) or perhaps loaning money to businesses through bonding. However, none of this has achieved final town council approval."
"Denver readily conceded that one of the problems facing a downtown restoration effort was the 'considerable' number of absentee landlords in the area. These property owners are scattered out of the area, 'and this does make communication efforts a little tougher,' he said."
"Chairman of the now disbanded community appearance committee making 'face-lifting' recommendations to the council last summer, Adrian Runions, also expressed high hopes for an ultimate face-lifting of the downtown area. He expressed confidence that downtown businessmen 'have a lot of interest in refurbishing the area, but I don't think the interest has really surfaced yet.'"
"Runions suggested that some of the area's already present 'old Southwest atmosphere' should be preserved. This, he said, is already a part of the town's heritage, and it should be exploited to combat further business defections from downtown. This 'atmosphere,' he said, would provide an 'attractive' atmosphere to both tourists and residents."
"Runions said mush of his optimism for the future of downtown Cottonwood is based on the 'very successful' clean-up day conducted last spring with the assistance of town officials, several organizations and civic-minded citizens."
(The Verde Independent; Thursday, December 5, 1974; page 1.)