Great Falls Development Authority partnered with LPW and AE2S Engineering to revision three half blocks in downtown Great Falls. The half blocks were selected based on their currently underutilized buildings along with opportunities they offered for infill and new construction.
During the process, the team hosted a visioning charrette with members of the community where they received numerous ideas of potential businesses and feedback on what was most important to them. The designer’s goals for the project were to show development that provided unique uses to the downtown, design places for people that activate the street life and support an 18-hour dynamic day, and to design spaces that serve as catalysts for future downtown development while encouraging the existing buildings to be brought back to their historic character.
As one of the most important street corners in Great Falls, the buildings on the north side of the 100 Block of Central and Park Drive have been mostly neglected. Many of the buildings had metal panels installed over the historic masonry facades in the 1950s-60s.
The Downtown Visioning plan shows the buildings with the metal panels removed, exposing the historic facades. The upper floors have been converted to market-rate apartments, including studios and 1-2 bedroom apartments. The corner building that once housed the Montana Power Company now shows short stay rentals, such as an Airbnb.
The street level of the 100 Block now shows an ice cream shop and a bistro-style restaurant on the corner, with outdoor seating. The Kellergeist Pub Theater is currently under renovation. The visioning showed an outdoor beer garden in a portion of the parking lot adjacent to the pub. The other antique stores are shown as remaining in place (with remodeled facades). A small Italian restaurant with outdoor seating adjacent to the street is planned in the other small parking lot.
The 200 Block is one of the largest open and undeveloped spaces in Downtown Great Falls. It includes a full half-block of underutilized parking lots on 1st Avenue South between 2nd and 3rd Street South.
A fresh food market has been added to the western corner. The upper floors of the market will have (31) 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, designed for young professionals. The planned building has a rooftop terrace and bar. East of the market building includes parking for the apartments and the market, and space for up to 4 food trucks.
The eastern corner has a building comprised of shipping containers. Envisioned as a retail/service incubator, the small spaces will offer a perfect location for retail and/or service industry start-up businesses. The upper floor of the container park includes a restaurant and outdoor dining. A south-facing courtyard includes a turf area for outdoor games.
The upper floors of the buildings have not been changed for over 60 years. The renovation will include 76 market rate studio and 1-2 bedroom apartments. A second floor rooftop terrace is shown to offer access to outdoor space for the apartments.
The south half of the 500 Block of Central Avenue was planned as a large mixed-use commercial/residential development. Tying the upper floors of the four main buildings together will allow the development to share elements like an elevator and vertical circulation, reducing costs of the overall project. The exterior faces of the buildings are to be cleaned up and refurbished to look like their historic selves, with new windows, doors, and signage.
The main floors were envisioned to retain existing businesses including Dragonfly, Let’s Play Games and Toys, Downtown Dice, The Lobby Bar, and Maria’s Mexican Restaurant. A child care center, boutique fitness, and sushi bar and grill have been added to infill the buildings on the street level. The addition of the mixed use spaces will add needed street life to downtown and benefit all existing businesses.