LAWTON, Okla._ City officials in Lawton agreed Tuesday night that a roughly one-mile stretch of Fort Sill Boulevard is in need of attention. They want to clean it up in hopes of reducing crime and making it a more attractive entrance to the city.
This new project will focus on Ft. Sill Boulevard between Cache Road and Rogers Lane. The first phase, which consists of identifying and demolishing rundown structures, has already begun. It's the start of a long cleanup process that will take years.
"I just wish it looked more upper class," says Terry Durant, who opened up a used car lot and powerwashing business on Ft. Sill Boulevard in May. "We're in Zone One. That's not good. We don't want to be classified as a zone."
Vandals have already cut through her gate and stolen a trailer from her business, T&C Powerwashing. She blames rundown structures, including an abandoned car wash directly behind her shop, for negatively impacting her business.
"I could have the best cars sitting out here, but when they look at the area that you are in, 'you think they really feel safe stopping?' I wouldn't," says Durant.
In response to residents and similar feedback from business owners, the city will now explore how to best make the area more attractive. Ft. Sill Boulevard is in close proximity to Fort Sill, which is a major partner of the city and an entrance point to many visitors.
"I am a firm believer that dilapidated structures (and) dilapidated areas of town simply breed crime," says Keith Jackson, who is leading the cleanup effort.
While Councilman Dwight Tanner agrees, he also understands small businesses have small budgets. He's in favor of giving buildings a facelift, but he's against the city imposing financially burdensome requirements to comply with city standards. He's on board with creating an incentive approach for businesses to improve their exterior appearance.
"We want to focus on putting the neighbor in neighborhood services," says Tanner.