Locals honored by NeighborWorks Great Falls for efforts to improve properties, neighborhoods

Locals who had invested time and money into restoring or improving properties throughout Great Falls were honored by NeightborWorks Great Falls for their work earlier this week during the Annual Most Improved Awards.

The luncheon event was held Wednesday at the new SpringHill Suites by Marriott in West Bank Landing. The hotel was named best new building by NWGF.

“It truly does take a village to make our neighborhoods what they are,” said Sherrie Arey, NWGF executive director. “Today’s awardees truly deserve this honor as their impact has a lasting effect on not only the physical neighborhoods, but each and every neighbor. The domino effect of commercial and residential improvement is proven and we applaud these community members in starting their portion of that impact.”

Joel and Jenny Todd were honored for their most improved rental at 624 5th Ave. S.

The property sat vacant for 17 years when a Bozeman buyer snagged it off a tax sale but was overwhelmed with the project.

The Todd’s purchased the property soon after and installed a new boiler, sewer, windows, refinished staircases, re-plumbed, rewired, re-roofed and repainted, among other improvements.

The five-unit property is now a major improvement to a corner lot and each unit has been leased out.

The Todd’s have a few other properties in that neighborhood and the improvements are “just planting the seeds for it  to continue,” Joel Todd said during the ceremony.

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After the ceremony, Joel Todd told The Electric that they prefer “saving the history and the architecture of old buildings,” versus building new.

The 5th Avenue South project, though, was a massive undertaking. There had been a couch fire in the basement, he said, and years of neglect. All of their contractors were also overwhelmed by the project, but he said everyone put their nose down and pushed through.

They have seven properties in that neighborhood and about 15-20 properties around town.

The most improved residential property went to Michael Croscutt for his family’s work at 2301 Central Ave.

Croscutt’s son, Joshua, purchased the property in 2008 and the two have been working on it ever since. They started with the foundation and then gutted and remodeled the house.

During the ceremony, Croscutt said, “once we started, the neighborhood just took off.”

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Croscutt told The Electric that it took three years just to make the house livable and the father-son duo did much of the work themselves.

With so many old houses around town, restoring the property “really enhances the area,” he said. Now many of the neighbors are also making improvements to their properties, he said.

It may have taken a decade, but Croscutt said, “I get so much enjoyment,” from knowing how the house was rebuilt and having stories to remember about each aspect of the project.

Brad Talcott spoke during the ceremony about the SpringHill Suites project, and larger West Bank improvement, and said “this is one place that needed cleaning up.”

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Many communities would love to have a river run through it, Talcott said.

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“We’re a river town,” he said. “We should take advantage of it.”

Other 2018 winners are:

  • Most Improved Commercial Property: The Diegel Building, 26 4th St. N.

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  • Best New Downtown Building Award: Lithia Motors, 800 Central Ave.

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  • Best Adaptive Reuse of a Building: Peak West Bank Landing, 401 3rd St. NW.

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  • Volunteer of the Year: Sandy Rice
  • NeighborWorks Board Member Recognition: Brett Doney
  • Business Partner of the Year: Leonard Lundby, Triangle Turf
  • Realtor of the Year Award: Polly Pearson/Abby Williams, Keller Williams
  • Lending Partner of the Year Award: Doug Spence, Embark Credit Union

NeighborWorks, including the local affiliate, are wrapping up National NeighborWorks Week and its 40th anniversary celebration. The local organization is 38 years old.

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In 2017, the NeighborWorks network provided housing and counseling services to 455,100 people; repaired 71,300 homes; and created and maintained 43,600 jobs, according to NWGF.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that now goes to the Senate floor that includes:

  • $1.3 billion for the HOME Program, which helps Montanans access affordable housing.
  • $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants that Montana cities and towns can utilize to construct and restore affordable housing units.
  • $147 million for NeighborWorks, which Montanans have used to increase access to affordable housing.

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines are both members of the Appropriations Committee.

NeighborWorks is the trade name for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which was established by Congress in 1978 to promote reinvestment in urban, suburban and rural communities by local financial institutions working cooperatively with residents and local government. It funds 240 organizations, monitors their progress, and provides grants and consulting services, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Appropriations Committee recommended that $145 million be designated for NeighborWorks with an additional $2 million for the promotion and development of shared equity housing models. According to the committee, that’s $119.6 million more than the budget request and $7 million more than the amount enacted for the current fiscal year. The committee report indicated continued support for the set-aside of $5 million for the multi-family rental housing initiative, which has been successful in developing innovative approaches to producing mixed-income affordable housing nationwide.