Architect Randy Hafer: Saving Montana’s Cities
One afternoon this fall, workers were knocking out old walls and strategizing how to build “snugs” – semi-private seating areas – in the Arvon Building, a one-time opera house and hotel on First Avenue South in Great Falls. The finished project will boast a restaurant on the first floor, a European-style hotel on the second, and, in the basement, a wine cellar for customers – a gleaming showcase of old and new.
Architect Randy Hafer is largely the one to thank. Over the last 12 years, Hafer has developed a niche for realizing the potential in turn-of-the-century eyesores that long sat empty or were “goobered up,” to steal his phrase, with newer out-of-character façades.
Dressed in his signature blue jeans and scuffed boots and wearing what borders on a handlebar mustache, Hafer, 59, even looks the part of a preservation cowboy. He’s not afraid of taking a few risks to save the old wood and brick buildings that capture Montana’s past. In the process, he’s adding new life to downtowns, helping reinstate the civic sense the older buildings bring.
“There’s a conversation between these buildings, and there’s a scale and a character and a kind of richness and variety” – the very ingredients that make being on that street a pleasant experience, Hafer said.
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