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This rendering of the outside of a renovated Corn Palace was presented in July to the Mitchell City Council. Exterior changes would include new light-up domes, improved lighting, larger murals, a new entrance on the south side and large windows that open to a balcony above the marquee. (Courtesy of city of Mitchell)

Corn Palace project clears historic preservation hurdle

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News Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
Corn Palace project clears historic preservation hurdle
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The State Historic Preservation Office has given its blessing to the plan to renovate the Corn Palace.

In a letter received by city officials earlier this month, the office says the $7.175 million plan to renovate and expand the Corn Palace will not “damage, destroy or encroach upon historic properties.” The plan was approved by the Mitchell City Council in July.

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“It is quite a relief,” said Doug Dailey, chairman of the Next-Generation Corn Palace Committee, in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Republic.

Dailey said he plans to briefly present the state office’s decision at the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Monday.

The Corn Palace is a contributing structure to Mitchell’s Historic Commercial District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mitchell’s City Hall, which is attached to the north side of the Corn Palace, was added to the register as part of the district earlier this year, despite objections from city officials who were concerned the historic designation could interfere with plans to renovate the building.

The district’s listing on the register prompted the state office’s review of the plan. The project’s case report was sent to the state office in November after the Mitchell Historic Preservation Commission unanimously endorsed the plan.

The plan to renovate and expand the Corn Palace has been split into two phases.

In the first phase, the plan calls for changes to the exterior of the Corn Palace, including new light-up domes with LED lights that can change color. It also includes larger murals with improved lighting and large windows that open to a walk-out balcony above the marquee, and numerous other changes.

The existing City Hall building will be vacated and renovated to include exhibits and a theater in the second phase of the plan. A new city hall will be built in southern downtown Mitchell.

“I think the project respects both the history and the tradition, and everything the Corn Palace stands for,” said Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Republic.

The state office recommended, as part of the renovation, that a second set of glass doors be installed in the entranceway of the existing City Hall building to “allow for better temperature and humidity control to protect the museum collection, as well as maintain a design feature of the original building,” the letter says.

The “museum collection” refers to the exhibits planned for the second phase of the project, Schilling said.

“It’s very, very minor things they were talking about,” Schilling said. “We were very pleased with what came back.”

Dailey said Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, a Minneapolis-based design firm involved in the project, has been busy moving forward with the details of the plan.

“The next step is to continue on with the design and work toward a final project, so it can eventually be put out for bids,” Dailey said.

The city has $6.5 million set aside so far for the Corn Palace project from bonds issued last winter. The city also has $3.2 million set aside to build a new City Hall, mostly from the same bond issue.