Tuesday, March 19, 2013

City of Helena Becomes Affiliate Community Member of Montana Main Street Program!

Montana Main Street Program Awards Project Grants and Welcomes Helena as New Affiliate Community

(HELENA) – The Montana Department of Commerce is awarding a total of nearly $36,000 to five Montana Main Street (MMS) communities, one of which is a brand new member to the program. The previously enrolled communities of Glendive/Dawson County, Shelby, Terry and Whitehall will receive grants, along with the newest Affiliate Community Member, the City of Helena.

The Montana Main Street (MMS) program is dedicated to bettering the economic, historic, and cultural vitality of Montana downtowns through community development, revitalization, and historic preservation. MMS fosters grassroots efforts through coordination and technical assistance, focused on a comprehensive approach to restoring healthy community commercial districts and preserving the historic structures that contribute to Montana’s unique sense of place.

The Affiliate Community tier allows all eligible communities the opportunity to learn and develop the Main Street Four Point Approach™ while accessing the resources and services of the program network. This tier is designed for communities entering the program and in the early stages of organization and capacity building.

The Helena Main Street efforts will be led by the City of Helena Community Development Department, Helena Business Improvement District, and Downtown Helena, Inc. Other organizations associated with the downtown are encouraged to participate in the process of strengthening the district through long range planning and more specific prioritized projects.

“The new Helena Main Street project is a collaboration of organizations, businesses, and residents as part of a larger effort to maintain and grow the economic vitality of the downtown commercial district,” said Meg O’Leary, Director of the Montana Department of Commerce.  

Helena joins as the 20th member of the state program after successfully completing an application for membership and demonstrating a dedication to the downtown district. 

“Helena demonstrated a clear vision for their downtown revitalization efforts, significant accomplishments in the downtown to build upon, and collected a flood of membership support letters that represented a wide range of downtown business and tourism groups, local independent businesses, and historic and cultural institutions,” said Tash Wisemiller, Coordinator of MMS.

FY2013 Montana Main Street Grants (to date):

Helena: $7,500 - The City of Helena plans to conduct a property tax analysis and revenue mapping project to better understand the value of downtown development and investments made in the downtown commercial district. The project would include the creation of a citywide set of maps demonstrating land and property valuation with revenue production charts, collaborative Helena GIS training, and a pair of community presentations to report the findings and issues unique to Helena.

Glendive/Dawson County: $15,000 - The city of Glendive, in coordination with Dawson County, will update their existing Growth Policy in response to recent significant regional economic growth related to oil and gas development. The update will integrate goals and policies related to the preservation and revitalization of downtown Glendive, improving commercial opportunities, and developing long-range plans to collaboratively promote tourism throughout the jurisdiction.

Shelby: $3,000 - Shelby will utilize Main Street grant funds for the creation of a historical walking tour in the Main Street business district and adjacent historic neighborhoods. The project is part of a larger effort to identify and list historic properties, promote tourism in the community, and connect the downtown business district to the Shelby heritage tourism plan.

Terry: $1,500 - The town of Terry will utilize Main Street grant funds for the continuation and completion of a Growth Policy (started in FY2012 using Main Street Funds) to plan for sustained growth and promote regional economic development in coordination with a strong downtown district.

Whitehall: $8,800 - Whitehall was awarded Main Street funds to assist in the creation of an urban renewal tax increment finance district to address blight, promote investment in streetscape beautification, and generate a funding source for infrastructure improvement.

Affiliate Update: Deer Lodge
The most recent Affiliate member to be accepted into the program in June 2012 was the City of Deer Lodge. The community has since begun major planning efforts, spearheaded by the Deer Lodge Development Group, to restore the historic Hotel Deer Lodge, filling the vacant building with an operating hotel and retail space along main street. The larger plan aims to strengthen the downtown commercial core with new business, save the landmark historic building from disrepair, and connect the downtown with the wealth of historic and cultural attractions in the area. The Deer Lodge Development Group submitted a successful application to the Montana Office of Tourism, resulting in a $30,000 grant award to create a smartphone self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown. “Deer Lodge is positioned adjacent to a major tourism corridor in the state and the potential here is significant. There are really exciting plans underway and we look forward to supporting such efforts” said Wisemiller. 

The Montana Main Street Program is housed within the Community Development Division of the Montana Department of Commerce and offers technical assistance and expertise to member communities and awards competitive grant funding to communities actively working on downtown revitalization, economic development, and historic preservation.

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