Commissioners meeting

Bozeman City Hall Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

The city of Bozeman plans to put more than $5 million into upgrades for the stretch of town city leaders have dubbed Midtown, including new sidewalks, lights and a pedestrian path.

City commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to designate a list of improvements along the North Seventh Avenue corridor as an Urban Renewal Project.

The money will come from the Midtown Urban Renewal District, which allows the city to use taxes collected from the area to set the stage for economic development.

“This has been a long-time coming and it has been a community effort,” said David Fine, the city’s Urban Renewal Program manager.

The projects approved Monday will mean North Seventh Avenue may look a bit different.

The stretch between Durston Road and Mendenhall Street will receive road, sidewalk, street light and curb and gutter improvements. The avenue will also get more trees, pedestrian crossings and stormwater infrastructure improvements.

That type of work — more sidewalks, street lights and upgraded curbs and gutters — is also planned for Aspen Street between North Fifth Avenue and North Seventh Avenue.

The city also plans to build a multi-use path that will connect people to the Westlake BMX Park, the Aspen Street improvements and to a new mixed-use development known as the Aspen Crossing Project, a 68,000-square-foot building on the corner of Aspen Street and Fifth Avenue.

Fine said property owners have donated right-of-way to help make room for the sidewalks and path.

The improvements’ total estimated construction costs comes to $5.3 million.

The district has nearly $2.5 million in cash today. The city collected $621,000 from people within the district last year.

The city will go out for a 25-year, up to $5.5 million bond to borrow enough money to pay for the work, which the district would repay.

City officials have been trying to solve what they’ve called a development lag and blight on North Seventh Avenue for more than a decade. The area became an urban renewal district in 2006.

Sometimes money from the district goes toward broad improvements — like those agreed to Monday — or specific building projects that help developers close the gap for projects that otherwise wouldn’t pencil out.

The idea behind the district is that the city will plug into projects that build its tax base. City leaders have said North Seventh Avenue could eventually serve as an extension of downtown with places for people to walk, shop, eat and sleep.

Commissioners said Monday that vision for Midtown is taking shape.

“These improvements to public infrastructure help transform what was a car-centric, retail corridor into a neighborhood where people can live, work and shop,” Commissioner Terry Cunningham said. “And that’s the goal.”

The specific improvements approved Monday were outlined in plans for the area dating back to the district’s creation.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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