Small business owners devoted to Anaconda have done their part in sprucing up East Park Avenue, as half a dozen sparkling storefront makeovers can attest.
During a breezy strolling tour on a sun-drenched day, the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Downtown Tax Increment Financing District board of directors led curious visitors on a tour of the six renovated buildings.
Such noticeable aesthetic and functional improvements increase the value of buildings, clean up abandoned buildings, entice other business owners to invest in downtown and attract more visitors.
“The TIFD primes the pump for more investment by the business owner and it encourages other businesses to invest in their own buildings, too,” said Jim Davison, Anaconda Local Development Corp. director for 30 years. He strolled along with the pack Thursday, pointing out several eye-catching upgrades.
TIFD refers to the property tax increment that’s doled out during a set time frame, but the current TIFD, established by ordinance in 1996, has ended.
The project that transformed so many businesses ran from June 2012 to July 2013, according to Judie Tilman, county TIFD consultant.
“It’s really improved the economic viability of the downtown,” said Tilman. “Instead of looking deserted and run down, the downtown looks alive and vibrant.”
The TIFD helps establish a property tax base in the designated area, then the increase is reinvested, in increments, back into the
community within a 10-year time frame. The TIFD was established in 1996, but must now ride into the sunset.
“It’s sunsetting for this district,” Tilman said. “It’s all been used, so any increase in taxes now goes back to the county.”
Taking full advantage of the improvement funds was Konnie Friez, owner of Konnie’s Touch of Color at 505 E. Park Ave.
Friez bought the building last May after running the interior-
exterior painting business from home for eight years. She matched the TIFD funds at $12,814, then invested $9,000 of her own money for additional renovations.
“It was time to expand it and the TIFD gave us room to do it,” said Friez.
Friez, originally from Gundelsheim, Germany, but an Anaconda resident for the past 23 years, installed new hardwood flooring, a new ceiling, doors and code-worthy electricity and gas in a building that once housed another paint store, but then sat empty for too long.
“That’s another reason why I wanted to buy the building — because we’re painters,” said Friez. “It’s in sound shape and an awesome building.”
While she rents out the high-end, open-concept space in front to Anaconda Realty, the back room is better suited to a working paint shop. Beyond that is a patio with commissioned brick mural and a garage that Friez paid for separately from TIFD.
Approved business owners must equally match funds with TIFD allotments, but many voluntarily tack on their own money for enhancements.
“The TIFD has helped everyone in town,” said Friez. “It gives us the possibility of doing everything in a short period of time.”
In most cases, many of the transformations are stunning and in some cases, urban hip.
Connors Law and Accounting at 212 E. Park Ave. boasts impressive classic columns that give the store front old-world flair coupled with modern street-level signage and paint updates.
Formerly The National Bank of Anaconda, accountant Chris Connors and lawyer husband Keith Connors kept the engraved historical letters and the impressive massive copper door.
“The whole idea was to keep that historical element,” said Chris Connors. “We still have the old bank vault (inside), too.”
While the copper door patina presents some trouble in upkeep, Connors matched it to copper metallic trim high up on the second street-facing level. The artistic effect ties the two stories together, aesthetically speaking.
The rest of the building was recoated in off-setting white to help distinguish the authoritative classic columns that bolster both sides of the door.
In recent years, TIFD boosted the value of two other downtown businesses: Copperopolis Home and Gift Shop at 406 E. Park Ave. and The Washoe Theater at 305 Main St. when it helped pay for a new heating system and marquee.
The theater, which now offers 3D movies among the standard flicks, was the last theater constructed in the United States in the Nuevo Deco style, a form of Art Deco. It was designed by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca in 1930.
Davison said he would like to see the TIFD regenerated in order to make additional similar improvements on Commercial and Main Streets, as well.
Overall, TIFD benefits clearly outweigh any negatives. Consider the upgrades Botox for the commercial district.
“It’s given Anaconda through Park Avenue a great appeal,” Friez said. “These old buildings should not be ripped down; they should be taken care of.”
Reach reporter Renata Birkenbuel at Renata.email@example.com and 406-496-5512.