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LRI takes new name, new focus

| October 13, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Libby Revitalization Inc. has a new name , a more defined focus and a new home.

LRI, a non-profit organization committed to revitalizing the community's business district, has been renamed Libby Main Street program. LRI executive director Betty Jo Wood will remain on the job in the same capacity.

In addition, Libby Main Street will focus more on downtown redevelopment than LRI did.

"In the past we worked on ordinance issues, we've done projects at the park outside the downtown and facade improvements outside the downtown," Wood said.

Libby Main Street will spend more time sprucing up the downtown area between Highway 2 and the railroad tracks near the Kootenai River and between Main and Montana avenues. That includes the downtown Mineral Avenue shopping district and California Avenue.

The Main Street program has relocated from free space in Libby City Hall to free space in the city's Mineral Avenue building next-door to Timberline Auto Center where Libby Police Department is located.

Libby Main Street program also will continue to work with Libby City Council on a proposed $7.5 million, somewhat controversial downtown improvement project. When the groups met last, they agreed to discuss it again with property owners. That meeting has yet to be scheduled.

They hope to convince property owners to go along with the project. Under the current plan, property owners would have to pay $75 to $100 per foot of street frontage.

City council and LRI remain committed to some type of project, for which grants are expected to cover the bulk of the cost.

The current plan calls for developing a more attractive pedestrian friendly environment with things like sidewalk dining, art displays, hanging flower baskets, and improved business and way-finding signs.

The plan also calls for restoring the railroad depot at the end of Mineral Avenue, building entry monuments, landscaping along streets and narrowing crosswalks.

Libby in 2003 joined the Main Street program and was among the first of three Montana cities to get involved. Others were Stevensville and Butte.

"We were ahead of the curve," Wood said. "We started the Main Street program here before the state had its program."

The Main Street program is an approach to commercial district revitalization that combines historic preservation with economic development to restore vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts. It has created a network of more than 40 statewide, citywide and countywide Main Street programs with more than 1,200 active programs nationally.

The center provides information, technical assistance, research and advocacy through consulting services, conferences, publications, membership, newsletters and training.