Fate of the Downtown Walking Mall
Within the last year, 3 businesses in Helena's Walking Mall have either closed or re-located, leaving some people to question the fate of one of Helena's most historic landmarks.
The Walking Mall was created in the 70s during Helena's Urban Renewal, and at the time, it was a popular trend across the country. Now, as Helena continues to grow, owners have more options for their business locations, but city officials say they are determined to keep the center point of Downtown Helena thriving.
The Crepery has called the Downtown Walking Mall "home" for more than five years. But with recent complaints from neighboring tenants, owner Jeff Spurlin is being evicted for the smell of his crepes.
"If I could have found another suitable spot that could have been renovated within the two months I've been allowed, without a doubt I would have stayed downtown."
Even though Spurlin liked his location, he says foot traffic has slowed in recent years. So he is taking his business to the Great Northern Town Center for a fresh start.
"Thinking about it and looking at the changes in the traffic patterns, I felt like it was time for a change, and it's gonna be a good change."
The Crepery is not the first business to leave the historic Walking Mall. In the last year alone, downtown Helena has also said goodbye to the Green Iguana, and Riley's Irish Pub.
"It's been almost a steady decline, it's just traffic during the day, you use to see a lot more people walking out there."
But City Manager Ron Alles says the Walking Mall serves as Helena's downtown focal point, and city officials are doing their best to keep it alive and successful. This includes a tax break for those located in historic buildings to help pay for any needed renovations.
Alles says, "The more we can do to encourage small businesses and others, and offices to stay located downtown, the better."
In the end, Alles and Spurlin both agree, businesses will come and go, but the Walking Mall is here to stay.
Spurlin: "For a small locally owned business, I think the Walking Mall is an incredible location."
Alles says the city has also recently applied for a half million dollar grant to make the entire downtown area more ADA accessible.
Story by Jill Jagelski, Beartooth NBC.
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