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Hamilton joins program to revitalize downtown
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Hamilton joins program to revitalize downtown

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The Montana Department of Commerce announced that the Montana Main Street Program has accepted Hamilton, Thompson Falls and Cut Bank as new affiliate members of the statewide program.

“The Montana Main Street Program is helping communities throughout the state build and revitalize successful downtowns,” said Montana Department of Commerce director Meg O’Leary. “We are looking forward to working with our three new members to implement the comprehensive downtown vision, planning, and project potential clearly demonstrated at the local level.”

Hamilton Downtown Association coordinator Russ Lawrence said he is very pleased.

“It was a competitive application process, and we wouldn’t have been selected without strong support from every aspect of the community,” said Lawrence. “We’ve been working closely with the city of Hamilton on this and many other initiatives in the last year, including the just-completed Downtown Master Plan, and it’s nice to see those efforts now bearing fruit.”

Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce director Al Mitchell said he is happy Hamilton has been accepted.

“We are happy to jump on board and start going,” said Mitchell. “We want to tap into the Montana Main Street Program resources and get their expertise for free.”

The program will help Hamilton leaders learn about prioritizing projects, building organizational capacity and about the “Main Street Four Point Approach.”

“Montana’s Main Street Program has had some notable successes, and we only need to look down the Eastside Highway to Stevensville to see one great example,” said Lawrence. “It takes the whole community to bring about that kind of success, though, so it was gratifying, during the development of our own Master Plan, to see how deeply our downtown matters to Hamilton. Maintaining a vibrant downtown is obviously good for the whole community, as a source of civic pride, and contributing to our sense of identity.”

Hamilton has completed a downtown master plan and Montana’s Main Street Program will help implement the plan directives.

“The HDA and the city are taking the lead to bring our stakeholders together for a meeting with Tash Wisemiller, Montana Main Street Program coordinator, in mid-July, to map out our next steps,” said Lawrence. “The program has some small grants available, and we’ll be combing through our Master Plan for projects we could implement right away with their help.”

The Montana Main Street Program awarded over $50,000 in grants last year. It is a collaborative effort between the Community Development Division (CDD) and the Montana Office of Tourism (MTOT) at the Montana Department of Commerce.

“The program helps communities strengthen and preserve their historic downtown commercial districts by focusing on economic development, urban revitalization and historic preservation through proactive long-range planning, organization, design and promotion,” said Ronja Abel, communications director, Montana Department of Commerce.

“Our stakeholders include business and property owners, those interested in historic preservation, arts and culture – and people who just enjoy the unique environment of Hamilton’s Main Street,” said Lawrence. “The retail environment has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and we’re grateful for every bit of help we’re offered, to maintain downtown Hamilton as a great place to shop, work, and do business.”

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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