Tackling Vacancy and Abandonment Strategies and Impacts after the Great Recession
Author(s): Center for Community Progress
In May 2014, the City and County of Butte-Silver Bow, Montana engaged Community Progress (through our technical assistance scholarship program) to help develop “a more holistic approach to managing blight.”
Butte has a rich history as a center of copper mining, beginning in the late 19th century. The city’s population peaked at roughly 42,000 in 1920, at which time the population of Silver Bow County, including the city of Butte, was approximately 60,000. Butte was by far the largest city in Montana at the time, the next largest being Great Falls, slightly more than half Butte’s size. In 1970, the last census before CityCounty consolidation, the population of Butte had dropped to slightly over 23,000, for a population loss of 44%. Since a far greater part of the city’s 1920 population lived in what is now known as Uptown Butte, the population loss in that area was substantially more than 50%. Much of this population loss, however, resulted from the demolition of entire neighborhoods to accommodate the change from underground mining to open pit mining. The advent of open pit mining not only led to the loss of entire neighborhoods, but also to disinvestment in nearby residential neighborhoods and the Uptown commercial district.
The focus of the County’s technical assistance request and the assessment visit was the area known today as Uptown Butte, which is also in its entirety a National Historical Landmark District. Our recommendations suggest broad policy and strategy areas for the County and its partners’ consideration, including community engagement, building a property database, and better aligning the structure of COunty government to the mission of revitalizing uptown Butte.
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