Restored holiday decor, other beautification efforts coming to downtown

Some aspects of downtown Great Falls are getting a bit of a facelift this year and you’ll start seeing the results as soon as this week.

The first update will be new banners affixed to light fixtures downtown. Those are expected to unveiled in the next week or so.

Restored vintage holiday decor will also be making its debut downtown this holiday season.

The holiday decor and banners are one aspect of the Business Improvement District’s efforts to spruce up downtown.

Created in 1989, the BID is governed by Montana Code Annotated and funded by a special assessment that property owners within the boundary vote to impose on themselves.

Currently, there’s about 180 properties within the BID boundary, according to Joan Redeen, community director of the BID. The district is up for renewal every 10 years and remained in existence since it’s creation nearly 30 years ago.

Redeen recently presented their budget and work plan to the City Commission. The BID is projecting $244,448 in assessment revenue for this fiscal year. That’s up significantly fiscal year 2010 when assessment revenue totaled $158,000. The increase in assessments can be attributed in part to the rise in property values downtown.

The role of the BID is beautification and the assessment funds, plus some other revenues, are used to operate the BID office, grant programs, tree maintenance, beautification efforts and additional projects for streetscapes and economic growth.

The BID assessment is follows this formula as approved by the BID board and the City Commission:

  • a flat fee of $200.00 for each lot or parcel;
  • a flat fee of $50.00 for each lot or parcel with a designated Land Use     Code of 125 which is a Residential Condominium;
  • an assessment of $0.00165 times the market valuation as provided for by the Montana State Legislature; and
  • an assessment of $0.015 times the square footage of the land area.

“There’s not a penny of city dollars in this,” Redeen said.

Volunteers also play a crucial role in their efforts and this year, the holiday decor is getting some much needed TLC thanks to a volunteer who wishes to remain anonymous.

The holiday decor was purchased sometime around the 1970s and the collection includes about 110 pieces of metal poinsettias, candlesticks, Christmas trees and ornaments.

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The metal had a mesh with some kind of sequins all over them, Redeen said, and “they were a mess.”

Each pieces affixes to the period lighting, mostly on 1st Avenues North and South, and some had been hit by trucks. They’d also been stacked on top of each other while stored in a city shed.

“They were in horrible shape,” Redeen said, but the pieces have gone out on display annually.

Holiday Decor

The holiday decor before restoration. Photo courtesy of the Business Improvement District.

The volunteers walks all over down and noticed that the decor was beat up and offered to restore the pieces, Redeen said.

The volunteer took them down to bare bones and the BID sent the pieces to the welding shop at C.M. Russell High School for repair, then to Advanced Coatings to be sand blasted and sealed.

Each piece is a large metal work and the candles are 6-7 feet tall, Redeen said. The volunteer is wrapping the restored metal pieces with festive garland and the pieces should be back on display this holiday season.

Restored holiday decor

Downtown holiday decor is getting a facelift this year. Photo courtesy Business Improvement District.

“Hopefully the community will notice this year when we have these amazingly beautiful and bright restored pieces of vintage decor in place,” Redeen told the City Commission earlier this month.

The BID is also focusing on safety in the downtown area and earlier this month made a $17,000 donation to the Great Falls Police Foundation for the purchase of a side by side ATV unit the Great Falls Police Department can use at its discretion, but Redeen said the hope is that the unit will augment their efforts downtown.

A new community resource ambassador is also hitting the streets this year since the BID hired a part-timer to have a presence downtown, answering questions and providing information.

You’ll notice the ambassador by their Kelly green and royal blue clothing and Redeen said their working to purchase a bike with a box attached to the back to hold fliers and informational items similar to one used in Missoula’s downtown.

The idea is to hire a full-timer or two part-timers and so they’re looking for a second part-timer, Redeen said. The job is seasonal, May through October, so Redeen said it might be great for local teachers looking to supplement their income.

Community ambassadors have existed downtown for years, but haven’t been particularly visible since the job was watering flowers and the current ambassador does that work generally between 4 and 8 a.m., Redeen said.

An expanded Coins for a Cause program is also coming soon.

The program has raised more than $500 annually, increasing a bit each year since it was introduced a few years ago.

Redeen said that Allison Fried, owner of Dragonfly Dry Goods, is working with Speaking Socially to develop a bright and colorful vinyl wrap for mailboxes that will be installed on private property. The wraps will include information about resources for homelessness and statistics.

The boxes will take monetary donations, and be locked. Redeen said they’re hoping to unveil one soon.

The BID is also continuing its efforts on expanding the pedlets downtown. The first one at Mighty Mo Brewing Company has proven so successful that the brewery has hired additional staff and business is up, Redeen said.