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GFDA and NeighborWorks reflect on 2022 achievements

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Dec 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-30 12:13:41-05

Throughout 2022, we have seen all kinds of projects and developments that have been successfully completed, or are still in the works.

Look no further than the construction of Touro Medical School, which will be one of Montana's first medical schools, as well as a new apartment complex downtown - Lofts At The Station. When passing by Central Avenue, you might notice construction going on at the old Greystone Inn, which will soon be "The Gibson Hotel." There is also the Arc apartment complex that is being built near the intersection of Division Road and Smelter Avenue.

When catching up with Great Falls Development Authority, they said 2022 has been a huge success, while also noting the progress that has been made over the past couple of decades.

GFDA Vice President Jolene Schalper noted the increasing number of business leaders flocking to downtown Great Falls.

Schalper said, "It (downtown) was thriving in the 80's, and went through this transition where it was really sleepy ... Now, the first-floor buildings are all taken, many of the second and third floors are taken. There are a couple opportunities to get in if there's a business idea you have, but it took partners working on the lighting, the music, and the façade improvements, just investing their time and effort to go, 'you know, I like our downtown, and here it is.'

Schalper noted that there has been some obstacles in the way the past several years, which is always a part of starting a project.

"The market, the supply chain, the high cost of building. There are challenges ahead," she said. "So far, we've seen businesses going ahead anyway. We've seen some that have had to wait, and we've had to find other tools and resources to help some projects that are great ideas, but really needed help ... I think we are going to see more success in our community over the next year."

NeighborWorks Great Falls also considers 2022 to be a success.

NeighWorks director Sherrie Arey stated, "2022 has been a successful year, even seeing some of the fluctuations in homeownership and the housing crisis we have faced in Great Falls. We have been able to continue our Owner-Built program, in having two builds going at the same time to bring twenty new homes into our community. We're still doing our High School House. We finished a wonderful house last May, and we started one in August. Then we’ve had several different projects internally through rehabs, homes that have been donated to us, as well as building homes this last year, so we’ve been successful in continuing to bring homes to our community.”

Arey said the programs NeighborWorks offers have served a vital role to those looking to become homeowners in Great Falls. She says they are hoping to expand upon those programs, and even adding more within the next year.

Arey said, "we're going to continue developing our single-family homes, and using that in our Owner-Built and High School House as well as doing some more in-fill, working with the city to help remove some blighted property, hopefully in the downtown area. We're also going to focus on the rentals. We know a lot of folks are going to be hurting with those costs of rental housing, so we're going to be looking at how we can step into that space and see what we can do either with some education, providing down payment assistance for homeownership as well as looking at possible apartments that we may bring to our portfolio."

When asked about what this means heading into 2023, they all said they have high hopes. While there may be some challenges along the way, they said that’s all part of building a stronger community.