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9:36 AM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Upgrades in store for Whiskey Row alley

PRESCOTT – Deep potholes mar the pavement, a tangle of utility lines run overhead, and battered brown garbage containers sit off to the side.

By almost any measure, the Whiskey Row alley is a less-than-enticing spot.

But – sandwiched as it is between Prescott's most famous street and the site of the new multi-million-dollar downtown parking garage on Granite Street – the trashed old alley is in line for some enhancements.

This week, work should get under way on the utility upgrades that will take place in the one-block stretch that backs up to Prescott's famed Whiskey Row.

Ron Miller, project manager for the city's ongoing parking garage construction, said he expects work to get started Wednesday on replacement of underground sewer lines that run through the alley.

Future work will include improvements to other utilities such as water, electricity and telephone, as well as the widening and repaving of the alley. The city also plans to replace the trash Dumpsters with a compactor.

The city included the alley work in its long-awaited parking garage project. The alley work amounts to about $527,000 of the $6.4 million parking garage contract.

But city officials hope the improvements will not end there. Indeed, after devoting more than a half-million dollars to the alley, the Prescott City Council still sees further beautification of the busy back street as a high priority for the coming year. The "Whiskey Row alley and improvement plan," received a high-priority rating during the council's goal-setting retreat earlier this month.

Most of the council members agreed that the pending construction project should set the stage for other improvements in the future.

"My mantra has been 'two front doors,'" Councilman Bob Roecker said, referring to the concept that businesses could use their alley entrances as a second access point for customers. "The timing for this is right now. There should be tons of excitement on Whiskey Row."

Councilman Jim Lamerson maintained, however, that the city should not limit its attention to Whiskey Row. "There are a lot of alleys that need attention in downtown Prescott," he said.

Mayor Rowle Simmons responded that "nobody can deny that this alley (Whiskey Row) is unique." He added: "When we have success on Whiskey Row, we can move on to other alleys."

Greg Fister, economic development coordinator for the city, agreed that the ongoing work on the parking garage and alley offers an opportunity to take the Whiskey Row alley to a new level.

In fact, he says the viability of the parking garage may depend on it. "The city thinks it's really important to the success of the garage that when people come out of the garage (in the rear), it's more than just an alley," Fister said. "The better the alley works as more than an alley, the better the success of the parking garage."

He and other city officials stressed that any further improvements would require coordination between the city and private property owners to determine what is best for the businesses. For instance, City Manager Steve Norwood pointed out: "Not everybody wants to have a second front door."

The city previously looked into grants that would help owners spruce up their back entrances, Fister said. He suggested upgrades such as façade improvements, awnings or dining patios.

In the meantime, owners will face weeks of inconveniences while the first phase of improvements is under way on the alley. Miller said the work would require partial closure of the alley at times, as well as one-way traffic at times.

Miller will be working with businesses to determine the best time for work on individual utilities. In some cases, that will be during the night, he said.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com