The Tribune’s recent editorial on Downtown Great Falls

Have you been working out?

It’s the kind of thing anyone who’s spending time at the gym or pounding the pavement is usually pleased to be asked.

It confirms that the Zumba class, an extra mile on a daily walk or new weight-lifting routine is making some improvement and that people notice the difference.

So it’s with admiration that we say: Downtown Great Falls, you’re looking good.

Certainly the construction of a new Public Drug building in the 300 block is the most noticeable. It’s great to see framework beams going up in what had been a vacant lot after the B&B Loan fire several years ago.

The Tap House Grill is almost ready to reopen and The Crooked Tree Coffee & Cakes over on 1st Avenue North will be a nice addition.

But there’s a lot going on downtown in addition to the aforementioned brick and mortar projects.

We take issue with critics, including those who have recently expressed such opinions on this page, who say the city’s core is letting itself go.

So does a longtime downtown business owner Rick Enge, whose shop, The World of Time, opened downtown 33 years ago.

“I’m an old time downtown person,” he said. “I started working at Kaufmans (Menswear Centre) when I was in high school. We call ourselves the Kaufmans alumni.”

He’s earned his stripes when it comes to pitching in to make downtown great. He runs a business, owns the building it is in and even plants and cares for flowers front of World of Time every year.

“I do think downtown looks nicer now than it did, say, 10 years ago, with the streetscape projects,” he said. “Last year the Business Improvement District replaced some of the trees that had died, which is great.”

The BID also is paying for a downtown ambassador, Justin Redeen, to help out this summer. In addition to helping direct people to places to shop, dine and recreate downtown, Redeen is charged with keeping the area’s sidewalks clean and watering the flowers in hanging pots and planters in the district.

The latter hasn’t been the easiest task — the BID is working to remedy a lack of portable equipment available to water the flowers, but in the meantime Redeen fills a plastic trash container with water that sits in the back of a pickup and drives around downtown to nourish the plants.

“I told my mom I probably will never plant flowers at my own place,” said Justin, who will be a senior at the University of Montana-Missoula this fall majoring political science. His mom, Joan, is the office manager for the BID.

Although it’s understandable that Justin is a little watering weary, we’re pretty sure he’ll rescind his vow to ban flowers from his future abodes. For one thing, he’s darn good at caring for the ones he’s charged with summer. They are beautiful.

Enge will give the hanging basket of flowers placed near his store by BID a drink when he’s watering his own planters, “but more often than not just when I think they look like they need one, I look out and there’s water dripping from the basket on the sidewalk because Justin’s been by. He’s got a little bit of a height advantage on me, too, so it’s easier for him.”

Justin’s tall stature also came in handy last week when he led a team of 15 Boys & Girls Club members and their two counselors through downtown to weed, water flowers and sweep sidewalks.

Member of the Club called the BID to volunteer to do community service projects.

“I thought it was great to see them all working downtown in their blue and green T shirts, with the downtown Great Falls logo,” said Enge. (The shirts were provided by BID, and the kids were thrilled.) “I think it helps make them all more aware of what downtown has to offer and the kind of work it takes to keep downtown looking nice.”

It takes a lot of collective effort by property owners, business proprietors, downtown promoters, public servants and community volunteers.

So again, to downtown and all of your vested partners, we say, you are looking good and we appreciate and notice the work you put in to make that happen.

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