|The Daily Courier/Les Stukenberg|
Cathy Patterson and Patty Lasker sit in Cathy’s Antiques and Collectibles Mall where they and other merchants hope to revitalize the original commercial district of Old Town Prescott Valley.
The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Patty Lasker said she helped to launch a Main Street project in Gorham, N.H., while she operated a gourmet shop during the 1980s.
"We worked to restore the businesses there and to beautify the area with landscaping and bringing in new businesses," Lasker recalled. "There were empty buildings."
She had opened her shop in the original business district in Gorham, a town in the White Mountains that became incorporated in 1836 and now has about 3,000 residents.
Lasker, 55, has similar goals in mind for the original business district in a much younger community, Prescott Valley, which incorporated in 1978 and has about 38,000 residents. She envisions more businesses, a pocket park, a museum and special events for Old Town, which stretches from Robert to Navajo roads on the south to Florentine Road on the north.
She and her husband, Owen, retired from their investment and board game businesses in North Conway, N.H., and moved to Prescott Valley three years ago to be closer to daughters Jennifer in Flagstaff and Danielle in Casa Grande.
With more time on her hands, Lasker got into the game here in September 2006 by taking an interest in Prescott Valley's Old Town, which dates to the 1960s.
"We can split hairs whether this area is historical in reference to its age," Lasker said. "I'm not willing to do that."
Lasker helped to organize the Prescott Valley Old Town Committee (now the Old Town board) and the Lonesome Valley Merchants Association. She meets regularly with both organizations.
Lasker brings energy and passion to the Old Town board, said Councilwoman Mary Baker, who recalled meeting her at a restaurant two weeks after Lasker arrived in Prescott Valley.
"She has a lot of passion for whatever she plans, or identifies where she is going to focus that energy," Baker said. "She gathers like people around her that have the same interest and passion and desire to see something done in Old Town to make it economically viable for Prescott Valley for the property owners and store owners."
Agreeing, Lasker said, "I'm definitely the cheerleader on the Old Town board."
Lasker met Wednesday afternoon with the merchants to make final plans for upcoming special events. She envisions events for tourists such as street fairs and activities for the neighborhood, such as chili cook-offs.
Old Town drew more than 2,000 people for its first official event, a street fair, this past Oct. 6, Lasker said. She also plans to place historic plaques on buildings, publish a walking guide and launch a website.
Lasker and other Old Town enthusiasts also back plans for a "pocket" park on a half-acre of town-owned land behind the Dairy Queen. They see the park as a gathering place and for events.
Town management staff indicated during a Town Council meeting Jan. 3 that they lack the money to build the park, and discussed the possibility of fundraising.
Lasker, who comes from a state with the motto "Live Free or Die," said she does not see the lack of town financing as an obstacle.
"We don't need taxpayer money (for the park)," Lasker said. "If the government just hands out a check, there is no community involvement."
Old Town merchant Cathy Patterson, owner of Cathy's Antiques and Collectibles on Robert Road, said she backs Lasker's plans to revitalize Old Town.
"I hope that she can get all these buildings, if not completely the way they were, at least close so that the tourists will stop here," said Patterson, who reopened the shop two weeks ago.
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