Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Pam Burke 

Hi-Line Living: Main Street attractions


September 8, 2017

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

Havre is seeing work from local people, businesses and organizations to bring color and vigor to the downtown community and the local economy.

Main Street Projects

Inspired by a presentation from the Main Street Montana Project on ways to boost the vitality of local communities and economies, a group of people representing a wide cross-section of local organizations and businesses is seeing projects come to fruition and working to develop and implement more plans.

Asking members what the name of this group is will likely elicit a handful of responses from Main Street Committee to Downtown Revitalization Group because the group has been too busy working the past two years pushing forward with projects to devote time to coming up with a formal name.

With representatives from Bear Paw Development Corp., city and county governments, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, Montana State University-Northern, Havre Public Schools, Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission, Havre Trails and more, "it's a very well-rounded group of individuals and a pretty sizable group that meets on a monthly basis," Bear Paw Development Executive Director Paul Tuss said.

Artwork adorning the traffic light control boxes at most of the stop-light intersections was the focus of the group's first phase of work. Local artists responded to a call for artwork submissions and the group had select pieces printed onto vinyl wraps. Contributing artist and group member Jillian Allen designed the layout and the wraps were applied to the boxes by Shawn Holden of Holden's Hot Wheels and Brenda Cox of Floren's Hill County Printing.

The group - which member Jim Bennett, director of MSU-Northern Alumni Foundation, described as fluid but with a solid core of people - secured a grant from the Hill County Community Foundation to build and install four bike racks in downtown Havre.

Once again, the project relied on contributions from a range of community sources. Pacific Steel and Recycling donated the metal and cut out the designs for each rack. Tony Dolphay, airport manager and co-owner of MRKT Aviation, welded the frames together, and Allen, also a Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission member, painted them. Roger Brough and Mike Nault donated tools for site prep and installation.

Each rack has a unique design theme reflective of Hill County. The rack with the Montana State University-Northern logo, painted maroon, is now in front of Cottonwood Cinema 4. A silhouette of the Bear Paw Mountains, painted blue, is at Salvation Army. The Great Northern mountain goat logo, red, is at the Havre Beneath the Streets office, and the yellow sheaves of wheat is waiting for installation.

"The broader goal of all of these projects is to feature public art and bring more color and vitality to Havre's downtown, and beyond," member Lindsey Brandt-Bennett said. "The bike racks are obviously also functional and are a first step towards providing much-needed bike parking in Havre. We've all seen residents and visitors walk up and down the block looking for a place to chain up their bikes. There is still a need for more racks, but we hope that this project brings awareness to that need and inspires businesses around town to add more, and to be creative with them."

"It's a good way to encourage people locally to bike," member Jim Bennett said. "It's also kind of nice for all those bicyclists that are going through town crossing the country, as an opportunity for them to have a safe place to lock their bikes up while they're exploring the downtown area, and we also thought it would be a way to add color to the downtown area."

Projects like the wraps and the bike racks can add that color without having to paint or renovate the entire facade of a business' building, Bennett added, though they have plans for those larger projects as well. The group will next start the planning phase of their third project: murals to be painted on buildings in town.

"One of the core principles that we'd like to try to focus on is to make the downtown area as pleasant as possible and as inviting as possible to those who, perhaps, are using Havre for the first time or visitors who are traveling through on Highway 2. So certainly, a key focus of those murals will be the Highway 2 corridor in downtown Havre," Tuss said. "It speaks about the attractiveness of the community or any community when you're going through it - as a tourist or a visitor or a traveler going through a community - (and see) items that are visually pleasing."

Tuss, and Bennett as well, said that the goal initially is to draw people into downtown - whether it's locals or visitors or people who would've driven right through town and on to another destination.

The more people are drawn to seek their goods and their entertainment in the community at downtown businesses the better the economy will be. This will, in turn, add to the vibrancy of the community, they each said. In the long-term, the group thinks, other individuals and businesses will roll that enthusiasm and extra income into improvements of their own.

Recent examples of this happening are an increase in flower boxes in downtown as well as artwork decorating the side of the Atrium Mall, owned by David and Kris Shaw.

It starts with little touches like these, Bennett said, and eventually the city can consider seeking larger revitalization grants or creating a tax increment finance area that will allow the city, the downtown businesses, to reinvest in itself.

Other communities have proven it's possible, he added.

"This cooperation works for bigger cities like Bozeman and Missoula, but also small towns like Terry," he said, adding "We can have that stuff, too. It doesn't take a lot to get it together. There sort of needed to be the right group of people to say we want that in our community, as well."

The group then has to see it through, and "yeah, that's been kind of tough," Bennett added, laughing.

"It's not our primary occupation, so energy ebbs and flows, but everyone has been doing a really good job of working together to say let's take some things that are manageable goals and one at a time check them off the list," he said.

The group is working to start small and stay focused on a few achievable goals, Tuss said.

"It's nice whenever you do anything to have a success you can point to and say 'Hey, we did that,'" he added.

Preservation Commission

While the Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission has worked on a number of local historic projects, the commission is in the midst of getting its own mural installed in downtown Havre.

Commission member Becki Miller said group members have selected an old Havre-area photo for the project and they have a location, Holden's Hotwheels building on First Street; they just need to attend to a few last details before completing the project.

Miller said the commission plans to have the image printed on metal panels and installed by the end of the year.

Havre Chamber

Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and members work throughout the year to encourage community and business strengthening, and the Chamber has old and new projects that will be helping to draw people in visually and physically.

All year, Chamber members maintain Town Square as a lush focal point for activities, and businesses are chipping in this year on another long-time brightener, the planters lining First Street.

The flowers and decorative greenery are donated by Bob's Greenhouse, then planted and watered by Chamber members.

The Chamber Board is working in conjunction with Havre Police Department, Havre Public Schools, business sponsors and Montana State University-Northern to add another draw to literally bring people to the downtown area - wheels.

Havre Police donated six abandoned bicycles, which will be refurbished, painted maroon and stored at a bike rack on the campus, and Northern will host what can be described as a project to offer a free ride.

The bikes will be parked outside Mackenzie Hall for students without a means of transportation to use to get around town, said Joe Ross Chamber president and manager of Cavalier's for Men and Women.

The students will be able to borrow the bikes, on their honor, and bring them back to the bike rack when they're done with them - "They can hop on and go," Ross said.

Havre Daily News/Pam Burke

Chamber members had heard about a similar program like this in Missoula and figured out how best to implement a version of it in Havre.

They expect a bit of a learning curve, Ross said, as students learn the system and community members learn that the maroon bikes, if found abandoned, should be returned to the university.

"A lot of the students that come to Northern as younger students don't have a mode of transportation, so we figured this would be a good way to help them commute down to the business community," he said.

Ross said work will pick up again on the project now that summer is ending and he expects the bikes to be available for use come spring.


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