Hamilton downtown businesses get a facelift

Hamilton downtown businesses get a facelift
Hamilton downtown businesses get a facelift

HAMILTON — Montana has many old towns with historic charm, but sometimes that charm needs renovation.

The Hamilton Downtown Facade Improvement Program is a new grant opportunity for downtown businesses to help finance storefront renovations.

In 2022, the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Downtown Association applied for a grant through the Montana Main Street Program, which awards money to downtown corridors across the state for revitalization and historic preservation projects.

With the money Hamilton received from the Main Street Program, the Hamilton Downtown Association was able to award $58,950 to fund 11 different projects.

The Facade Improvement Program is a matching grant, one-to-one up to $7,500. Each company’s renovation design must be approved by the Facade Improvement Committee.

“To make sure that our downtown remains cohesive and historically accurate and that everyone is following best practices,” Robin Pruitt, executive director of the Hamilton Downtown Association, told MTN.

Claire Peterson/MTN News

Clay Works in Bitterroot received a grant from the Downtown Facade Improvement Program to renovate their storefront with new paint and a new awning.

The selected projects include renovations of the City Center Motel, Clay Works in the Bitterroot, Bitterroot Furniture and Chapter One Bookstore.

The projects are intended to breathe new life into the companies without compromising their historical significance.

“We’re fortunate, our downtown has generally stayed the same, there haven’t been any major changes to our historic buildings, so most of these improvements are just paint and awnings,” Pruitt said. “The already historic character of downtown is being refreshed.”

Although the renovations may seem small, they are a big help to small businesses.

Chapter One Bookstore is celebrating its 50th anniversary, but until this grant, the awnings were falling apart.

“Every time the wind blew too hard, you were afraid it would blow over Main Street,” says owner Marisa Neyenhuis. “They told us about this great program that would make our building look better and not have to spend all our money on it.”

Claire Peterson/MTN News

Marisa Neyenhuis purchased Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton in 2023. The store is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new window display and mural thanks to the Facade Improvement Program.

The Facade Improvement Grant also helped fund two new murals in Hamilton: one in a downtown alley and the other on the facade of the Chapter One Bookstore.

“We’re really excited to bring art to downtown Hamilton and hopefully inspire other businesses,” Neyenhuis said.

With a new awning or a lick of paint, local businesses can attract more customers and tourists.

“It really brings a fresh perspective to these buildings and these businesses and makes them stand out in a way that maybe they haven’t over the years,” said Hamilton City Planner Matthew Rohrbach. “It can make people notice those businesses in a new way, whether they’re new to Hamilton or have been here 10, 20, 30 years.”

The City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Downtown Association hope to continue the grant program into the future until all businesses on Main Street have made the necessary improvements.

The public can support the program by making a donation to the Hamilton Downtown Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Hamilton Downtown Association.

“I love the community pride we have on our Main Street and in our downtown and I think these projects make everyone more proud of what we have here,” Pruitt said.

Chapter One Bookstore will unveil the mural during their 50th anniversary celebration on July 12 from 5-8 p.m.

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