Downtown Helena Master Plan Process & Public Involvement Materials

Downtown Master Plan

What is it about downtowns you’ve visited that makes them memorable? How did that community achieve their vision?  The Master Plan will be a visioning and guiding document for the management and future growth of Downtown Helena by the Helena Business Improvement District, the City of Helena, and other agencies. Master planning is an important tool for guiding downtown economic growth.

Why create a master plan? Other Montana communities have completed master plans that have spurred economic growth in their downtowns.  Nick Kalogeresis, Vice President of the Lakota Group and former Program Officer for the national Trust Main Street Center, recently wrote in the Main Street News, “A downtown master plan is one of the most important sustainability documents a Main Street community can have as it reaffirms the downtown’s role as the economic, cultural, and social center of the community. Downtown master plans have long been developed and adopted by Main Street programs and municipalities to guide decision making for public improvements, private investments, and changes to existing zoning codes and regulatory mechanisms.”

He continues to say, “These plans often have specific elements related to streetscape improvements, open space and parks, historic preservation, land-use and development opportunities, transportation and parking, and governmental and cultural facilities. Downtown master plans can also address sustainability concerns such as the reuse of historic buildings and existing infrastructure, the mixture of commercial and residential land uses to encourage pedestrian activity and less reliance on autos, and the guidance of development and reuse of vacant parcels and land inside, rather than outside, the downtown area.”

Draft Downtown Master Plan  1020151746a (002)

The draft Master Plan is now available for viewing.

The final Downtown Helena Master Plan will be presented at the Helena Business Improvement District Board of Trustees meeting on April 14th. The City/County Planning Board and City Commission will entertain passage of the Plan in April and May. We will be posting those hearing dates on the Facebook page.

Existing Conditions Report

The Downtown Master Plan Existing Conditions Summary is now available for review; the report is an appendix in the Master Plan document.

Final Marketing Study 

HBID is also pleased to release Robert Gibbs’ final marketing report. In October, Robert Gibbs, of the Gibbs Planning Group, provided an optimistic initial assessment of the economic opportunities available to Downtown Helena. His final report is available here:  Helena Rev Report Sept 28 – Rev. Nov 23

Third Charrette – Presentation and Materials 

The third charrette for the Downtown Master Plan was held January 26th at the Holiday Inn. Over 90 participants heard about proposed strategies and weighed in on different alternatives. Word Cloud

Charrette #3 Presentation FINAL 01-26-16

Vision & Principles

Implementation Strategies


Land Use Framework

Master Plan Charrette Visuals

Second Charrette Presentation and Materials

The second charrette for the Downtown Master Plan was held October 20th at the Holiday Inn, 22 N. Last Chance Gulch.  Over 90 participants listened to nationally recognized retail marketing consultant Robert Gibbs talk about the potential for Downtown Helena and the market advantages we have before continuing to work on a vision for downtown and ideas for strategies to achieve draft goals. The presentation by Bob Gibbs, the presentation by WGM Group and the exercise map are provided here:

Gibbs Presentation 1020151905 (002)

Helena DMP Charrette #2 Presentation_FINAL 10-20-15

Activity Map 8 5×11

First Charrette Presentation and Materials

The first public charrette for the Downtown Master Plan was held September 2nd at the Best Western Premier Great Northern Hotel, 835 Great Northern Blvd. Over 80 participants reviewed the results from the public engagement to date and worked on ideas for addressing issues in seven key categories.  The presentation by WGM Group as well as the presentation materials are provided below:

Helena DMP Charrette #1 Presentation-FINAL 09-02-15(2)

Charrette #1 Boards

A summary of the night’s work and activities will be available soon.

Survey Summary Available:

A summary of the results from the public survey are now available to download and/or view. Thank you to the over 700 people who took the survey and are helping shape the future of Downtown Helena.

Final Survey Summary

What is a charrette? A charrette (or charette) is defined as an intense period of design and/or planning activity. The participants learn about issues then break into small working groups to develop proposals to solve a problem or create a strategy.  It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the consultants.  More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.

Steering Committee

Twelve community leaders have been chosen to participate in the Master Plan Steering Committee.

  • Julie Serstad, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Development Council
  • Melinda Barnes, Executive Director, Bike/Walk Montana
  • Shalon Hastings, Owner – Taco del Sol, The Hub
  • Alan Nicholson, Developer and property owner
  • Paul Cartwright, Former City Commissioner/Growing Friends of Helena
  • Sumner Sharpe, Helena Citizens Council
  • Ed Stevenson, Downtown resident, Placer Condo Association President
  • Dennis McCahon, Downtown historian and artist
  • Sid Godolphin, Property owner
  • Dan Lloyd, Governor’s Office of Economic Development
  • Kyle Baker, Carroll College
  • Ryan Schwoehert, Downtown patron/alternative transportation/energy

The Steering Committee will advise the consultant team and help guide the process. Steering Committee members will be asked to commit to five or six meetings and attend three public charrettes over the duration of the process. Thank you for your commitment to helping develop a comprehensive master plan.

Community Based Planning

The Downtown Master Plan process will be a community based planning process. Traditional planning processes usually entail a consultant or consulting firm conducting an analysis and then presenting to the community different alternatives on a preselected issue. Community based planning starts with the community identifying the opportunities and challenges and developing the strategies – the consultants provide the technical expertise to guide the process and provide the technical aspects to make those strategies reality. Community based plans are authored, vetted and monitored by the community that created them. Your input is critical to the development of this plan.

Take the Public Survey [Survey is Closed]

Tell us what you think! The Downtown Helena Master Plan will be a community-based plan that will address specific elements related to streetscape improvements, open space and parks, historic preservation, land-use and development opportunities, transportation and parking, utility infrastructure, and governmental and cultural facilities.

Your input is essential to creating a plan that reflects the needs and interests of your community. Fill out a survey and give us your comments.  The survey is available to download and mail in (below) or online at: The survey will be available until August 25th.

Download a copy of the survey: Downtown Master Plan Survey

WGM Group Awarded Master Plan Contract

The Helena Business Improvement District in partnership with the City of Helena has selected a team of consultants lead by WGM Group to lead the master planning process for Downtown Helena.

WGM Group’s team was selected from a pool of four teams of consultants.  In addition to the team lead by WGM Group, teams from Inside Edge Design LLC, KLJ Engineering, and SMA Architects were also considered. In addition to submitting written proposals, each team made a one hour presentation of their qualifications to the selection committee. “We were really impressed with the quality of the proposals and presentations,” said Randy Riley, Board Chair of the Helena Business Improvement District. “You could tell each team had been thoughtful in putting together the expertise that would deliver a very high quality plan for Downtown Helena. The teams embraced the need for the process to be community driven and the passion for Downtown Helena was very evident.  This is an exciting project and we are looking forward to working with WGM Group.”

“Downtown Helena is a special place, and we are excited to be part of planning its future,” said Jeremy Keene, Principal Engineer for WGM Group. “We have a great opportunity to bring people together around a plan that makes downtown an asset for the entire community.”

Read the entire press release here Downtown Master Plan Consultant Press Release 5-8-15

Request for Proposals (Closed):

The Helena Business Improvement District (HBID) is seeking a consultant or team of consultants to assist the HBID and the City of Helena in creating a Downtown Helena Master Plan. The Master Plan will be a visioning and guiding document for the management and future growth of Downtown Helena. The planning process will be complete by March 31, 2016, if not before, with the adoption of the plan by the City Commission. The selected team of consultants will be announced the first week of May.  Click here to view the Request for Proposals.