With a basic "streetscape" concept in place and more detailed renderings due next week, excitement is beginning to build on Payson's Main Street.
A seven-member state resource team with representatives from the Department of Commerce, Valley architects and streetscape specialists, and California business consultants spent four days in Payson last month to perform design and marketing research that included interviewing 30 members of the town council , community leaders and hand-picked Payson residents. At the conclusion of their visit, they presented preliminary streetscape design boards at a public reception.
The sketches, which Main Street Coordinator Karen Greenspoon said are "what we will base all of our future plans and development on," feature three in-ground brick roundabouts, two that serve as gateways at either end of Main Street, and one at the "main intersection" of Main Street and McLane.
"They're more of a decorative feature than anything," Greenspoon said, "a kind of focal point where we could put a statue or something like that."
The streetscape renderings also feature a "linear park" that runs the entire length of Main Street from Green Valley Park to Highway 87.
"We're looking at whether water retention or a channel would be feasible, but regardless of whether we have a water feature, the state resource team recommends pedestrian paths and bike paths through it. The town is in the process of trying to acquire the land."
Primary pedestrian zones, which run down either side of Main Street, are shown in the streetscape renderings with native stone retaining walls that double as seats, decomposed granite parkways, Arizona sandstone-colored concrete sidewalks, additional honeylocust trees, and park benches. The existing acorn streetlights would remain.
Also identified on the streetscape renderings are potential Main Street public parking areas, and a site near the northwest corner of Sawmill Crossing that affords an opportunity for an outdoor gathering space perhaps an amphitheater, plaza and information directory.
The state resource team recommended that parking be moved behind buildings to replace the adjacent storefront parking that is predominant on Main Street. Many of the current parking areas could be turned into patios and courtyards.
"Most of the people the team interviewed said they wanted to keep Main Street as close to the original as possible," Greenspoon said. "What a lot of people don't realize is that the facades on some of the existing buildings were added much later."
Greenspoon said that much of the way the Old West was portrayed in cowboy movies is inaccurate. Indigenous building materials were used, and in this area there was a lot of rock and block," she said.
Regardless, it is ultimately up to the property and business owners to decide how and to what extent they will implement the recommendations of the state resource team. "It's private property, so it's pretty much their decision," Greenspoon said. "We have a lot of people who are excited about applying for grants, but we also have some who are not interested in participating."
She also said that while there is no way to control the types of businesses on Main Street, retail shops, restaurants, book and antique stores, and similar businesses are being encouraged.
Greenspoon has had some informal discussions about moving the fire station off Main Street.
"A fire station is just not very conducive to a walking area," she said. "I've talked to (Payson Fire Chief) John Ross and he agrees. I think (the fire station building) would make an excellent community multi-event center.
"I know (Payson Parks Director) Bill Schwind is interested in having it at Rumsey Park, but I think it would be an excellent way to bring people down to Main Street. Plus, it's very conducive to all kinds of facilities."
Among the renderings expected next week are those for five Main Street buildings and one residence selected to serve as examples of how property owners can renovate to fit into the streetscape theme. Those selected include Colorado Communications, Payson Sports and Equipment, the building now shared by the Zane Grey Museum and the new Payson Main Street/Payson Regional Economic Development office, and the building shared by The New Ewe and CableVision.
The residence, currently vacant and for sale, was selected to show how a residential home "can be converted design- and concept-wise into a business," Greenspoon said.
Meanwhile, applications are being accepted for the first round of $10,000 community development block grants for beautification projects. "It's based," Greenspoon said, "on a point system that includes whether the property is located on Main Street, whether it has any historic value, what kind of shape it's in things like that."
As one of 20 officially designated Arizona Main Street communities, the town shares in about $130,000 per year, and has more opportunities for grants and matching fund programs. The designation also means the Arizona Department of Commerce funds the state resource team and other consultants specializing in all areas of redevelopment, such as architecture, urban design, retail recruitment, market analysis, and Web site development.
Since coming on board earlier this year, Greenspoon has tried to talk to all the Main Street property owners. "Some are still sitting back wondering if it's really going to happen this time," she said.
But, Greenspoon said, there is no doubt in her mind that it is.
"With the council's recent approval of the purchase of the land for the historical park and the grants we have or intend to apply for, things are really beginning to happen," she said.
In addition to another round of commercial development block grants, which become available almost immediately, Greenspoon hopes to get a $325,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation for street design, landscaping and signage.
Payson's Main Street prognosis is actually much better than Show Low's, where Greenspoon was coordinator before coming here.
"Despite a lot of support from the people, we had to overcome the fact that there were no vacant buildings and no available land on Show Low's Main Street," she said. "On top of that, there was a church at the center of the district and that really limited what we could do."
She cites Sue McIntyre, co-owner of the Mogollon Grille, as a shining example of the kind of effort it will take from business and property owners to make Main Street the attraction she envisions it can be.
"Sue has arranged to have carriage rides from her restaurant down to Green Valley Park and back, hopefully starting this weekend," Greenspoon said.
"They're also offering entertainment on their patio. As the only restaurant on Main Street, that's really important to us right now."
McIntyre, a member of the Main Street board of directors, is also hopeful the revitalization is finally happening. "We're getting enough traffic through town; our business is climbing steadily," she said. "The momentum is building one step at a time. People on Main Street are starting to get excited.
"We're psyched, and we're trying to do what we can to make it happen."