In an effort to improve safety and bolster business, downtown Stevensville will begin a beautification project next month. The core of Main Street will be re-worked so it's more pedestrian friendly.
Community leaders hope to highlight the attractions of Montana's oldest permanent settlement. Main Street Stevensville serves two functions, the center of town commerce, and a highway for traffic north and south.
Project supporters said re-working the street can serve both purposes. "Keep the traffic flowing, provide adequate parking," said consultant Geoff Badenoch," and at the same time, make it a place where it's safe and pleasant to walk, to bike and to shop."
Badenoch was the Missoula Redevelopment Agency director for close to 20 years. Through public and private partnerships, he led the redevelopment of downtown Missoula, spearheading Caras Park and the riverfront trails.
Stevensville Main Street intersections would be expanded for people to gather. Pedestrians would have better visibility and less street to cross. "The cars would probably stop better for you," said Bill Nelson, who just finished crossing the street. Nelson is in a wheelchair.
There would be minor landscaping and colored concrete. Badenoch shows off artist renderings for a contest to decorate bike racks.
"It's just the beginning of an eventual project with new benches, planters, and hopefully historic lighting," said Main Street Association director Joan Prather. Prather wants Stevensville to be a destination point.
The project is paid for by a $250,000 federal grant through the Montana Department of Transportation. The Stevensville Main Street Association raised $67,000 from businesses and individuals to meet the match.
The city of Stevensville will pay $2,000, plus donate demolition work. But word on the street is mixed.
"It's wonderful," said Patty Hiscoe. But resident Dani Ede likes the town as it is. "It doesn't need any extra," said Ede," it's cute as it is."
Since 1841, Stevensville has persevered as a community. Project leaders say they want to honor that. "This is reflective of the best of the history of the area," said Main Street Association board member Cinda Holt, " as well as its current effort and its current business."
Street work should begin in June and end in August, in time for the Creamery Picnic's 100th anniversary.