By Crystal Thompson
Picture strolling down a sidewalk along a main street, casually browsing the numerous specialty stores and locally-owned shops that line the lane. Think of perusing window displays and sipping a latte while light jazz music dances from outside speakers.
Now, picture yourself as you take a rest on a bench in a cozy town square that is surrounded by shade trees and blooming rows of flowers, as you look around and admire the historical beauty and prestige of the area that surrounds you. Finally, look up at the sign welcoming visitors to downtown Havre?
At a meeting Tuesday night in city hall, Emily Mayer-Lossing headed up a small group of citizens and local business people interested in revisiting the eight-year-old plan to revitalize Havre's downtown business district. In 1993, a revitalization study was completed by a local committee; the study included goals and plans to restructure and rebuild the historic essence of downtown Havre in order to increase traffic to the heart of the city. However, little was done with the plan and it has essentially been shelved in recent years. "The plan doesn't mean anything unless you have people working behind it," Mayer-Lossing told the group.
Since 1980, the Main Street Program has been working with communities across the nation to revitalize their historic commercial areas. Under the direction of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Main Street approach has effectively helped rebuild downtown business districts; improving economic management, strengthening public participation and making the downtown a fun place to visit. The goal of the program is to recruit new business and traffic to the town's core by building on the rich historical value of its buildings, architecture and ambience.
Mayer-Lossing has been an advocate of the Main Street Program since she was first introduced to the idea over three years ago. Since then, she has worked to gather information and bring in representatives from the program to speak in Havre. She said that she is now ready to get the wheels in motion to make the program a reality.
Those attending last night's meeting decided unanimously that the first step towards making downtown revitalization happen is to form a committee of interested people and to introduce downtown businesses to the program. Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corporation of North Montana, told the group that downtown revitalization is the heart of economic development. Tuss said that he is willing to promote this idea and help it get off the ground. Debbie Vandeberg, Executive Director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce said that the Chamber's downtown beautification committee is already working hard to improve the appearance of Havre's business district, and that the Main Street Program builds on these same strong ideas.
Mayer-Lossing, Tuss and Vandeberg agreed to work together to get local businesses involved in a new revitalization program, and to invite them to a meeting next month to further discuss the 1993 plan. Mayer-Lossing said that she will be in contact with the field representative from the Main Street Program out of Denver and see if he will be available to attend an organizational meeting next month. "I'd like to see a (revitalization) group formed by June," Mayer-Lossing said.