Public asked to take wayfinding survey

The Business Improvement District, in cooperation with the Downtown Development Partnership and the City of Great Falls, are working on wayfinding plan for the city and are asking residents to complete a short survey.

The survey was created by their consultant, Cushing Terrell, and is available here.

The group is planning a public virtual event for August, since COVID-19 has restricted the typical public meetings typically used with this sort of planning process.

Public asked to add destinations for wayfinding plan

From May through June, members of the public could add their favorite destinations to the planning map and community suggestions will be used to create the wayfinding plan.

The results are in for those community suggestions and the group is releasing that information on its Facebook page.

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The Explore Great Falls Wayfinding Plan plan will draw and direct residents and visitors passing through the area to explore amenities, attractions and businesses within the community, according to the downtown groups. It will connect pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles with downtown and adjacent destinations and local amenities.

Planners are looking to identify historic sites and buildings; family friendly amenities; urban fun; natural features; arts and culture; patriotic landmarks; and ag tourism.

In February, the Great Falls Business Improvement District on behalf of the Downtown Development Partnership received a $15,000 grant from the Department of Commerce’s Montana Main Street Program for development of the wayfinding plan.

The total project is $66,550.

The Main Street grant funding is coupled with $25,000 that the city earmarked in 2017 from the downtown tax increment financing district toward wayfinding.

Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority and DDP member said that the Business Improvement District, Tourism Business Improvement District and DDP contributed $6,500 each toward the project. The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and GFDA each contributed $1,000.

That leaves the groups $5,050 short of the total cost.

Doney is working on an application on behalf of the DDP to the city to use funds from the West Bank Urban Renewal TIF district, which includes West Bank Landing, West Bank One, West Bank Park and borders Montana Expo Park.

That application has not yet been submitted to the city and it will need City Commission approval.

The BID is an accredited member of the Montana Main Street program and is a nationally recognized Main Street America member. The BID and DDP with the City of Great Falls, released a request for proposals in October and has selected Cushing Terrell, formerly known as CTA Architects Engineers, for the project.

Downtown groups seeking proposals for wayfinding plan

During the April 22 DDP meeting, Nicole Olmstead from Cushing Terrell told the group that the main focus was to create a clear and consistent signage plan to get visitors moving throughout the community.

Olmstead said the team was anticipating the project would take six to seven months.

The first phase involves introducing the project to the community, reviewing existing documents and plans, refining the engagement strategy, which is impacted by COVID-19.

Next will be the exploration phase of determining which destinations need to be included in the plan and collect as much information as possible from the public.

“Nobody knows everything,” Olmstead said in the April DDP meeting, so they want to make sure everyone has a voice and planners don’t overlook anything that might be important to the plan.

Then they’ll create the base map as a guiding document on the placement of signage, but Olmstead said they don’t forsee getting into exact sign locations.

In late summer, Olmstead they’d get into the design phase with general themes, collecting comments, making adjustments and presenting the final plan.

“At the end of this, you guys will have a great plan that can be implemented through time in a way that makes sense to the community,” Olmstead said.

According to the RFP that was released in October, the city will provide grant administration and the BID will provide oversight of the project.

Wayfinding project planned for downtown in effort to improve economic development, connectivity and tourism

The downtown organizations and the city have been discussing options for wayfinding plans for years but have had little success in securing a grant for the project so far. Officials and downtown groups have often said they’d prefer to develop an organized plan for the downtown area, or the entire city, versus piecemealing signage for things like parking.

Parking board continues strategic planning effort

“The need for a wayfinding plan in Great Falls stems from the challenges the city faces with connecting pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles with downtown Great Falls and adjacent destinations including the River’s Edge Trail, city parks and other community attractions,” according to the RFP. “To that end, the city intends to develop signage oriented to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.”

Vision for a vibrant downtown Great Falls, microvisioning project designs unveiled

The DDP provides a central focus for downtown development, encourages collaboration and cooperation between downtown organizations and is a champion for Downtown Great Falls, according to their release.

The DDP works in conjunction with the City of Great Falls, the Great Falls Business Improvement District, the Downtown Great Falls Association, Neighborhood Council 7, NeighborWorks, Great Falls Development Authority, Cascade County, Great Falls Public School District, City-County Historic Preservation, Parking Commission and the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about what’s been happening downtown, contact the Downtown office at 318 Central Avenue, 727-5430 or 453-6151.