City approves TIF funding for wayfinding implementation
City Commissioners unanimously approved $128,950 in tax increment financing funds from the downtown district and $6,820 from the West Bank TIF for the wayfinding implementation.
The full cost to implement the wayfinding plan that was formally adopted by commissioners in April is $220,000 and is being coordinated by the Downtown Business Improvement District, with contributions from a variety of agencies.
The wayfinding plan was identified as a goal in the 2012 Downtown Master Plan, the 2013 Growth Policy Update and the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan.
Staff recommended approval and there was no public comment in opposition to the funding requests.
Jolene Shalper spoke in favor of the funding on behalf of the Great Falls Development Authority and as herself as a downtown business owner.
The BID received the following grants and contributions toward implementation of the wayfinding plan:
- Montana Tourism: $84,184
- Montana Main Street Grant: $12,500
- Downtown TIF District: $128,950
- West Bank TIF District: $6,820
- BID: $6,500
- Downtown Development Partnership: $6,500
- Tourism Business Improvement District: $5,000
- Great Falls Association of Realtors: $1,300
- Downtown Great Falls Association: $1,000
- Great Falls Development Authority: $1,000
In April, commissioners unanimously approved the wayfinding plan and a memorandum of understanding with the Downtown Development Partnership for the maintenance of the signs.
The plan includes 58 motorists signs, 20 pedestrian signs, and up to 10 kiosks in order to inform and direct the public to places of interest within the city. The majority of the signs will have at least one destination toward the downtown business district.
There are two motorist signs that are eligible to be funded with funds from the West Bank TIF District. The estimated price per motorist sign is $3,050, according to city staff. The amount requested from the West Bank fund, $6,820, will cover those two signs and contingencies in the installation process.
Of the other motorist signs in the plan, 39 are in the Downtown Urban Renewal District, as well as 20 pedestrian signs in that area. The BID is requesting funds from the Downtown TIf district for that portion of implementation.
“The wayfinding plan is essential to connect people travelling to Great Falls to the historic downtown and to the surrounding cultural, natural and recreational amenities. By having access to prominent, appealing signage, many who would otherwise simply travel through Great Falls or those who are not familiar with the area, will learn about the services, destinations and points of interest that are available,” according to city staff.
There are five goals in the plan:
- establish clear and consistent citywide signage geared toward vehicles and pedestrians that connect residents and visitors with downtown Great Falls and the area’s cultural, natural, and recreational amenities;
- to incorporate elements from existing logo/branding effort into the sign design;
- to incorporate a variety of signs that reinforce a “sense of place and identity”- providing visitors and residents with an understanding of where to find existing amenities and destinations;
- develop signs that add to a Great Falls aesthetic without creating clutter or discord; and
- ensure signs comply with all applicable local, state and federal sign regulations.
Other destinations will include not-for-profit organizations such as museums, galleries, the University of Providence Great Falls, and city attractions such as the Civic Center and prominent parks, according to the staff report. The plan calls for five signs to be placed outside the city limits but the agreement with the DDP doesn’t include those signs and the DDP will have to work with Cascade County or other appropriate agencies to install and maintain those signs, according to the city.
Last year, the city, the BID and other entities went through a public process to develop the wayfinding plan on a $66,550 contract with Cushing Terrell. The planning phase determined approximate sign locations and design, it didn’t include fabrication of signs, construction or placement of signs.
Tax increment financing funds through the city were also used to fund the planning phase, as well as grants and contributions from the DDP, BID, Tourism Business Improvement District, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Great Falls Development Authority.
The agreement with the DDP addressed the initial installation of the signs and their long-term maintenance.
The DDP has agreed to be responsible for the initial implementation and installation of the 53 motorist signs within the city limits, 20 pedestrian signs and up to 10 possible kiosks. The group has agreed to the maintenance of the installed signage for the first life cycle, ordinarily considered to be 7-10 years after the first installation of the signs. The city will own the signs upon installation.
Once the signs’ first life-cycle has expired, the city and the DDP will inspect the signage and determine if they are ready for replacement. If it is determined that the signs are ready for replacement, the city will take on long-term maintenance for the signs, but the city has the right to refuse to replace individual signs if it determines that they are in a damaged condition, not simply in need of replacement, and/or otherwise unacceptable, according to the agreement.