Spillover Investment on Main Street: Beyond the Façade

Authors: Huston Gibson*, Kansas State University, Micky Zurcher, Helena Business Improvement District, Tash Wisemiller, Montana Department of Commerce
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Main Street, Downtown, Façade Improvement Grants, Investment, Spillover
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Plaza Court 7, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In a time when funding for communities is limited, an analysis of investment strategy is critical. Façade improvement programs are thought to spur spillover of both direct and indirect investment in central business districts by leveraging built capital and harnessing a sense of placemaking. Downtown façade improvement grants are hypothesized to have several tangible and intangible benefits in a community, yet they are still regularly questioned by officials and taxpayers as to their value. This study asks, “do downtown façade improvement grants generate spillover effects on Main Street?” The hypothesis is they do, and the findings support this sentiment. Through case study in three designated Montana Main Street communities; Helena, Kalispell, and Anaconda, this paper empirically analyzes this phenomenon. Data was collected through face-to-face interviews with grantees and grantors along with a qualitative observational analysis of all three communities. In addition, for Kalispell, historical property tax rolls were used to determine property valuations overtime for grantees, their neighbors, and controls. Findings show that direct public-private investment through downtown façade grants, administered by downtown focused organizations, leverages positive direct and indirect spin-off via supplementary privately initiated renovations and building maintenance. This implies that strategic downtown planning and investment generates a multiplier effect; creating a larger return on investment from façade improvements on “Main Street.”

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