I'm a downtown dweller. Always have been. My friends actually joke that I have a 10 block comfort zone from the radio station in downtown Bozeman. The reason for that is most likely ALSO a reason that Main Street was just named a Top 10 Street. Details here:

American Planning Association Designates

Bozeman’s Main Street a Top 10 Great Street for 2012

Street Noted for Historic Character, Architecture, Mix of Uses  


2012 Art Crossing reception in downtown Bozeman, Montana. Photo by Michelle Wolfe/KMMS
2012 Art Crossing reception in downtown Bozeman, Montana. Photo by Michelle Wolfe/KMMS

Bozeman, Mont. – The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of Main Street as one of 10 Great Streets for 2012 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.

Historic Downtown Bozeman named a Top 10 Street in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Downtown Bozeman Partnership
Historic Downtown Bozeman named a Top 10 Street in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Downtown Bozeman Partnership

APA singled out Main Street for its frontier-town charm, concentration of late 19- and early 20th-century buildings, adaptive reuse of historic structures, and diversity of uses. Most of this nine block stretch, which runs from North Broadway Avenue on the east to North Third Avenue on the west, is part of a 1987 national historic district.

Bozeman Mayor Sean Becker said: ”Historic Main Street is Bozeman’s gem - certainly one of the State of Montana’s last best places.  Main Street has been a leader in preservation planning practices since the mid-1980s, a streetscape comprised of preserved historic landmarks and leading examples of innovative infill and redevelopment.”

Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces featuring unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders and planners. The 2012 Great Places illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters tomorrow’s communities and they have many of the features Americans say are important to their “ideal community” including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and sidewalks.

Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 60 neighborhoods, 60 streets and 50 public spaces have been designated in 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Bozeman’s Main Street is the second Great Place designation in the State of Montana, joining Red Lodge’s Broadway Avenue (recognized in 2010).

“Main Street is Bozeman’s time capsule, capturing the city’s history from the 1870s when the street was a gateway to Southwestern Montana mining camps to today’s role as the economic anchor of Gallatin Valley,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “An intense focus on planning and preservation during the past quarter century has protected Main street’s lively and unique character and helped continued the economic and cultural prosperity found here.”

Once home to tents and cabins, Main Street today features outstanding examples of commercial Queen Anne, Italianate, Romanesque, Neo-gothic Revival and Art Deco architecture, punctuated by the occasional touch of kitsch – such as the revolving yellow horse, now a Bozeman landmark, atop the marquee of the 1883 Gallatin Masonic Lodge No. 6 (137 East Main). The Bridger Mountain Range forms a picturesque backdrop, enhancing Main Street’s beauty.

The evolving streetscape that greeted early rail passengers to Bozeman included the 1911 Northern Pacific Railroad Freight Building constructed on East Main Street. One of the city’s finest examples of adaptive reuse, the renovated structure, now home to Montana Ale Works (611 East Main), features an outdoor patio that activates the streetscape and serves as a venue for local events.

Main Street is home to Bozeman’s oldest building, the 1872 Cooper & Black Building Armory (118 East Main), which used brick to evoke a sense of permanence in this frontier settlement. The building was home to Walter Cooper’s buffalo hide business as well as the city’s first library. Bozeman’s current public library, which opened in 2006 on East Main Street (626 East Main), is a 53,000 square-foot LEED silver facility.

As a cultural center, Bozeman’s Main Street hosted three theaters by the mid-1920s. The most opulent, the Renaissance Revival-styled Ellen Theatre (17 West Main), was designed by Fred Willson. This prolific, local architect worked on more than 1,050 projects including the 1929 eclectic, Art –Deco Baxter Hotel (105 West Main), Gallatin County’s 1911 Gothic Revival jail (317 West Main) and 1936 Moderne-style courthouse (311 West Main), and the 1931 Art Deco Hamill Apartments (427 East Main).

Downtown living is a focus of Bozeman’s 2009 Downtown Improvement Plan which recommends the city “build hundreds of units of housing.” The resulting Downtown Residential Incentive Grant Program helps fund the creation of residential units within the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) district, which includes much of Main Street.

The TIF district was created in 1995 to jumpstart the urban renewal by funding infrastructure improvements such as pedestrian-friendly streetscapes along Main Street. Five years later a business improvement district formed to ensure downtown’s long-term preservation and vitality. To maintain Main Street’s character, the city passed a 2003 ordinance limiting retail to 75,000 square feet and enacted historic preservation guidelines three years later.

These initiatives have been integral to redevelopment of the 200 block of East Main Street, partially destroyed by a natural gas explosion and fire in 2009. Three of four properties have been rebuilt despite the national economic downtown. Main Street’s resiliency is viewed by many as a harbinger of continued growth and prosperity.

The nine other APA 2012 Great Streets are: Duval Street, Key West, FL; Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO; Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY; Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY; Wall Street, Kingston, NY; Shaker Boulevard, Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Beachwood, OH; Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA; Broad Street, Charleston, SC; and Gay Street, Knoxville, TN.

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