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Group pushes forward on Montana Main Street efforts


Last updated 11/14/2019 at 1pm

Havre Daily News / Jack Lambert

Erica Farmer displays the possible colors for the Downtown Havre Matters! logo Tuesday at a board meeting for the Downtown Havre Matters! association. The board unanimously agreed on the brick color.

The group working to get Havre into the state Montana Main Street program, The Downtown Havre Matters! board, met Tuesday and not only discussed progress and future projects, but also is asking the public and business for feedback on what they would like to see in downtown Havre.

Debbie Vandeberg, Havre/Hill County Preservation Commission member and Art and Beautification Committee chair, and Erica Farmer of Havre Historic Properties, historic preservation committee and the Art and Beautification Committee, said they attended a conference last month in Missoula to learn how a bigger community is working to be a Montana Main Street affiliate member.

"The main thing we gained from the conference is that we just made some good connections with other communities that are trying to accomplish very similar things that we are. They are trying to work on their downtown, they are worried about walkability and livability and they are worried about business," Farmer said. "I think for us it was just really exciting to talk to other people that are kind of going down similar paths and how they've overcome some of these challenges and some of the challenges they found they can't quite figure out yet."

Farmer added that the conference also provided contacts and connections that she or the group can reach out to.

"It was just neat to ask questions and take notes," she said. 

The Montana Main Street Program, established in 2005, is a collaborative effort between Montana Department of Commerce's Community Development Division and Montana Office of Tourism. The program helps communities strengthen and preserve their historic downtown commercial districts by focusing on economic development, urban revitalization and historic preservation through long-range planning organization, design and promotion.

The Montana Main Street Program offers technical assistance and expertise to member communities, the website says. The program also awards competitive grant funding to communities actively working on downtown revitalization, economic development and historic preservation, it added.

Havre's Art and Beautification Committee has been working for several years on revitalizing downtown Havre, including putting covers on the traffic control boxes at Havre's stoplights, putting up bicycle racks and putting up a mural on Floren's Hill County Printing this year.

The Historic Preservation Commission also has been putting up murals, one historic photograph on Holden's Hot Wheels last February and another on the Havre Eagle's Club this month.

Vandeberg and Farmer said they would like to merge the work of the Art and Beautification Committee with Downtown Havre Matters! if the application to become a Montana Main Street affiliate member is approved.

They said they would like to collaborate with more business owners who would like murals displayed on the buildings.

Vandeber said for Phase One the committee wants to do alley art and, for Phase Two, the owners of Pizza Pro told the committee they would like historic art on their building.

"We gotta get it on paper and we are going to meet and put our ideas together," Vandeberg said.

Downtown Havre Matters! Chair Steve Helmbrecht said he would like to have a mural put in the alley by his business, Helmbrecht Photography.

Community and business owners can visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8KT27GD to fill out a survey about what they would like to see done in downtown Havre.

Havre Daily News / Jack Lambert

Erica Farmer listens to Debbie Vandeberg speak Tuesday at a board meeting for the Downtown Havre Matters! association. Farmer is on the beautification section of the board.

"We really want to get input from the business owners, so they can feel a part of it, even if they don't contribute financially or whatever," Farmer said. "I just think that they'll buy into the concept a little bit if they feel like they were part of it or they had some influence, not just who is this group and what do they do."

"You can't put close restraints on public art because everyone's vision of art is different and to make the art in downtown Havre follow a designated theme is not the way to go," Vandeberg said.

The board members agreed not to set a theme for downtown Havre art because the community members have different definitions of what art it is.

People interested in sending letters of support for Downtown Havre Matters! can contact Bear Paw Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss at Paul Tuss [email protected]

The next Downtown Havre Matters! board meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 14, at noon at Bear Paw Development Corp.


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