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Ajo Group Gets $1.1M Federal Loan To Help Preserve Iconic Town Plaza

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hands out loans for rural development projects. A tiny town between Yuma and Tucson with iconic architecture is getting one.

The town square of former mining community Ajo, Arizona, has the local library, post office and thrift store.

“It’s this beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival, arcaded plaza with central green space,” said Aaron Cooper, executive director of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance.

The plaza has a north and south building, white-washed and flanking a lage green park area. East of the area is an old train station, also owned by the ISDA. West of the plaza are two white churches, both distinct in their architecture. Continue west and there is the huge mining pit that Ajo was built for, to help support miners and other industries in town.

The Alliance just got a $1.1 million federal loan to buy the Ajo Plaza.

The money will go to help pay off debt so the ISDA can move forward with redevelopment projects so the town, without the mining industry, stays on the map.

The ISDA originally bought the plaza with an LLC back in 2008 and has been losing money on the project because of problems leasing space.  

“The sorts of investments we had been able to funnel through to it to start to redevelop it, all of that was at risk,” Cooper said.

The Ajo loan is one of 50 rural community facility direct loans the USDA gave out to 22 states this year. Other loans went to rural hospitals and food banks. 

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Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.