One of the primary assets that differentiates Downtown Missoula from others is the décor in the public right of way. The Downtown Missoula Partnership allocates significant time and financial resources to beautifying the public spaces of Downtown. Street décor improves the vitality of the district, keeps it interesting and is ever-changing over the course of the year. Well-maintained street décor showcases investment, community pride, loyalty and attraction for consumers. Street décor inspires beautification of storefronts and buildings, encourages place-making initiatives, and helps to reduce crime.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership is responsible for these street décor programs:
The Downtown Flower Basket program was created in 1981 when local artist Russell Smith, son of Russell Smith, Sr., after whom the Federal Courthouse is named, was hired to fabricate 72 individually-designed and crafted black metal baskets, made from barrels. Today the program has expanded to 100 flower baskets, hung from street lights throughout Downtown Missoula, some without the metal barrels.
Each year Pink Grizzly prepares 100 baskets for Downtown Missoula to be hung before Commencement at the University of Montana. The Downtown Missoula Partnership staff hangs and maintains the flowers with the hopes of keeping them up through UM’s Homecoming each fall. The baskets are watered seven days a week and watered twice a day when the temperature reaches 80 degrees or higher. Staff members also deadhead the baskets regularly.
Additionally, several Downtown business owners have planted flowers and decorative plants in boxes and barrels in front of their stores and in the street corner bulb-outs at Downtown intersections. Flowers and greenery showcase a vibrant city center and contribute to the brand of Missoula as Montana’s Garden City.
The Downtown Boulevard Banner Program was created in 1998, with assistance from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, to help showcase and beautify Downtown by hanging colorful banners from 110 street lights. The banner program has expanded over the years to a program that helps promote and showcase Missoula-area non-profit organizations and their special events. The banners are changed out regularly by Downtown Missoula Partnership staff, and they provide colorful, artistic and informative decor in the public right of way. For more information on the Downtown Boulevard Banner Program, click here (attached banner program resource guide) or contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership via phone (406-543-4238) or email ([email protected]).
Every community invests in holiday décor for their city center, and they are a significant investment of both time and money. Décor helps the community celebrate the holidays, draws attention and customers to Downtown, and contributes to community beautification and pride.
Downtown Missoula’s holiday décor program began in 1981 with the purchase garland Christmas Trees and Candelabras. In 2006 those decorations were stripped down to the steel frames and rebuilt with new wiring and garland, thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer time and effort. In 2009 the Snowflakes were purchased, and the program was expanded to include all the street lights on the Hip Strip. In 2016 and 2017 the Downtown Missoula Partnership upgraded the system with new wiring and electrical outlets to improve safety and sustainability of the system.
Today 150 decorations are deployed each November in preparation of the holiday season in Downtown. Every fall DMP employees and volunteers prepare for the annual hanging by checking each decoration, wiping them down, testing and replacing burned out and broken bulbs. City of Missoula Parks and Recreation staff hang and take down the decorations each year, and the Downtown Missoula Partnership funds the power, repairs, timer boxes, locks, and replacement bulbs.
Downtown Holiday Tree
In addition to the street light décor, Downtown Missoula is fortunate to have a live tree in the middle of Higgins Avenue that is decorated annually by Washington Corporation. The Lighting of the Tree takes place the first Saturday of December, and Missoula’s Holiday Tree remains lit until mid-January each year.
Downtown Missoula property and business owners contribute to the creative and festive environment of the holidays by lighting up their buildings, decorating their windows, wrapping lights around the street trees and hanging lights across the sidewalks between the buildings and the trees. The Downtown Missoula Partnership hosts the annual holiday window-decorating contest, encouraging the public to vote on several award categories.
Holiday décor brings beauty, light and joy to Downtown Missoula during the dark winters in Montana. They help showcase Downtown during the holiday season and attract people to the city center. For more information on the Downtown holiday décor, contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership via phone (405-543-4238) and email ([email protected]).
Following the September 11 attack on the United States in 2001, several Missoula community members, led by Missoula’s own Charlie Brown, pooled their resources and purchased 110 American flags, poles and brackets to be hung on the street lights in Downtown Missoula. The Downtown Missoula Partnership coordinates the flag raising for Independence Day each year, and NorthWestern Energy has graciously donated equipment and labor to hang and take down the flags on the Higgins Avenue Bridge for the fourth of July holiday.
The goal for the flag program is to lower the brackets to a level that will allow for staff and volunteers to hang the flags from a ladder, instead of a bucket truck. If that happens, then the flags could be hung multiple times a year and throughout the entire Downtown district.
Garbage & Recycling Bins
Street décor also includes practical and useful items such as garbage cans and recycling bins. Over the last 10 years, the Downtown Missoula Partnership has acquired and installed 71 garbage cans and 15 recycling containers in the public right of way to serve as collectors for garbage and recycling. The maintenance crew removes garbage and recycling from those cans every day.
Cans are typically located at or near street corners in a location that is easy to access and empty. Recycling containers are usually located adjacent to the garbage cans. As Downtown business and activities increase, so does garbage and recycling. Cans are placed in locations with high pedestrian traffic and areas where food and beverage produce increasing amounts of garbage. Street cans do not replace garbage dumpsters, but rather provide a clean and attractive receptacle for individual garbage and that is better suited to the public sidewalk space and design.
Missoula finalized a community visioning plan for the development of a Wayfinding System in 2013. Intended to help citizens find their way, and showcase community assets and Missoula’s sense of place, the wayfinding system includes city and district gateways, vehicle directional, pedestrian directional, parks, parking, and trails signage for the entire city.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership funded the fabrication and installation of 35 pedestrian directional signs, completed in 2016 in partnership with the City of Missoula. In 2017 the city will finalize fabrication and installation of the vehicle directional, gateways and parking signage.
The DMP continues to raise funds (hot link to MDF fundraising page) for nine double-sided Information Kiosks to be designed, fabricated and installed in key locations throughout Downtown.
For more information on the Missoula Wayfinding System, contact Jessica Morriss, City Transportation Planner, via email ([email protected].mt.us).
Play It Missoula Pianos
As a city full of visual and performing artists, Missoula was ripe for the Play It Missoula painted pianos placed in the public right-of-way. Initiated in 2014, the painted pianos were created to help reduce loitering in Downtown Missoula. By placing a painted piano in key locations, the public has the opportunity to enjoy playing the piano or just the visual beauty of the painted instrument. The Downtown Missoula Partnership has painted and placed nine different pianos in outdoor public locations during the summer months.
Lighting of the Bridges
Following a trip to Europe and seeing the lighted bridges in several countries, a group of Missoulians initiated a campaign to illuminate the river crossings in Missoula. Led by Dan Lambros and Tom Boone, the group partnered with the Missoula Downtown Foundation and raised $200,000 to light both the Van Buren and Madison pedestrian bridges with white lights that turn on every evening. The Van Buren Bridge was lit in November 2014, and the Madison Bridge was illuminated in June 2015. An enhancement for both safety and beauty, the Lighting of the Bridges will likely expand to other bridges across the Clark Fork River.