Wow, 2020 did not turn out at all like any of us had planned for. There were unprecedented challenges faced by many due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are in utter awe of the resilience and flexibility of the small businesses that make up our downtown. Like the rest of the small businesses around us, this year threw challenge after challenge at every arm of our non-profit organization. Thanks to the hard-working team inside the Downtown Billings Alliance we persevered through event cancellations, development plans changing, ever-changing health and safety guidelines, and nearly 1,000 Zoom meetings.
With a year like this, it’s hard to remember all that we’ve accomplished. It would seem with no large community events on our calendar our office should have had a slower year but this year was our busiest yet.
We wanted to share this with you, but also for our team to remember how much they did accomplish this year:
January & February (Pre COVID)
- The new downtownbillings.com website was launched
- A new online events calendar was added to the new website offering the community a space to see all downtown happenings.
- The new Downtown Billings Police Officer, Brad Mansur, joins the Downtown Billings team.
- Sweets by Sam hosted a Galentine’s Cookie Decorating class at our office for the February First Friday.
- Our downtown Development team helped Wise Wonders Science & Discovery Museum receive approval for TIF assistance on updates needed for their new building.
- Our BID Operations Director received the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Professional designation.
- The Smart Designs + Safer Spaces program begins property assessments (A collaboration of efforts between the BID & Billings Chamber of Commerce toward proactive public safety measures).
March & April
- Our organization teamed up with Big Sky Economic Development, City of Billings, Billings Chamber of Commerce, and Yellowstone County to create the Yellowstone County Economic Response & Recovery Team (YC Recovery Team) to help businesses all around Billings navigate the financial challenges of COVID-19.
- Our downtown Development team helped the owner of the Clocktower Inn receive approval for TIF assistance adding public art for the community to enjoy in their courtyard renovations.
May, June, July, August
- Hosted 5 Virtual Cash Mob retail events at different downtown retail locations & a two-day Chalk on the Walk event.
- Helped YC Recovery Team distribute over 50,000 masks to businesses all around Billings.
- Coordinated Downtown Crazy Days; a 4-day weekend downtown where shops, restaurants, museums & galleries had fun things to share with the community.
- Our downtown Development team helped the Billings Symphony and receive approval for TIF assistance on their new downtown Building.
- Printed and distributed the 2020 & 2021 Downtown Visitors Guide
- Our downtown Development team helped Bethany Joy Pilates receive assistance from the TIF Sign Incentive Grant.
- Our downtown TIF district lifespan was extended and funding was approved to convert N 29th and 30th Streets from one-ways to two-ways.
- The Smart Designs Safer Spaces program assessed 18 properties and helps The Pub Station and Yellowstone Art Museum’s Visible Vault receive grant funding.
- The BID increased the seasonal flower baskets (a well-loved downtown beautification project) from 120 baskets to 160 in 2020.
- The new Downtown Resource Officer, Kody Christensen-Linton, was hired.
September & October
- Hosted the Virtual Purple 5k, the annual fundraiser for Spare Change for Real Change
- Hosted our first ever Downtown Pumpkin Painting Contest and an Upcycled Scarecrow Contest
- 8 of the 9 new traffic signal box art installations happened before the winter weather arrived.
- The BID (Business Improvement District) donated the older Mr. & Mrs. Claus holiday decorations to the town of Roberts, Montana.
November & December
- Launched the Downtown Billings Gift Card program
- Gave $10,000 in downtown Billings gift cards to Yellowstone County Healthcare Frontline workers with the help of community donations.
- Celebrated our downtown Restaurants with 30 Days of Downtown Eats with $2,000 in downtown dining giveaways.
- The BID team installed 25 new LED Snowflake holiday decorations on Broadway and 2nd Ave N to replace the existing decorations for the first time since the 1960s.
- The BID team installed overhead lighting and a second downtown Light Bike in the N. 29th Street Alley beginning phase 1 of a multi-phase alley scape project.
- Coordinated Downtown Holly Days; a 4-day weekend downtown where shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries shared their holiday cheer with the community.
- Coordinated a Holiday Window Painting event that added window art to downtown windows for added cheer for the community to enjoy.
- Our downtown Development Team helped Sassy Biscuit Co. & Jook update their signage with assistance from the TIF Sign Incentive Grant.
- Spare Change for Real Change adds the new “Giving Boxes” to locations around downtown.
Accomplishing the list above had its fair share of challenges. Navigating the twists and turns of the pandemic has been wearing for many, to say the least. Our organization may look different now than how we looked when we kicked off the year; We have less team members than we started the year with, evolved job descriptions, and we are working with tighter budgets in many areas, but the members of our team are thankful daily to be able to help develop our downtown, keep it vibrant, clean, and safe for the community and visitors to enjoy.