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Deadline set for visitor center plan

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news Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Each year, thousands of Mitchell visitors are welcomed to the city at a tiny log cabin off Burr Street, near Interstate 90.

That's why, in 2010, the Mitchell Area Development Corporation bought the property directly adjacent to the cabin hoping to demolish the existing building there, a former restaurant, and build a new, much larger visitor center. The project was estimated to cost as much as $2 million.

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More than four years later, that price tag has proved to be a challenging obstacle for the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, to which the property is leased.

"A lot of people like the idea of a better visitor center, but they don't like the idea of spending a lot of money on it," said Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Chamber and MADC.

Hisel said it's now been decided if funding can't be found for the project by late this fall, the property will be put up for sale.

"We've just been unsuccessful in attracting the financing and dollars to renovate the facility," Hisel said.

MADC and the Chamber have decided to pursue a plan to renovate the existing building rather than the more costly plan to build entirely new, Hisel said.

"We're either going to fix it up and do it right or sell it to somebody who can," he said.

There is no firm estimate of how much a renovation of the existing building would cost, except that the price would still be "significant," Hisel said.

"It's a building on the tipping level, where the renovation of it is becoming almost as expensive as building new," he said.

When MADC bought the building adjacent to the log cabin in 2010, the building had an appraised value of $480,000, but the former owner gifted a portion of those costs and reduced the purchase price to $350,000. To offset some of the expense of a renovation, Hisel said MADC and the Chamber hope to find a partner, or partners, that would lease part of the building. The Chamber would likely reserve about 500 square feet of the 4,000-square-foot building, Hisel said.

Though a relatively small portion of the building, that's nearly three and a half times the size of the cabin, which is officially known as the Visitor Information Center.

"A lot of Mitchell folks are mildly embarrassed that's our visitor center," Hisel said.

Exactly what would become of the cabin if the adjacent property is sold hasn't been decided because it only existed in the first place because permission to use the location was granted by the former property owner, Hisel said.

The number of summertime visitors to the Visitor Information Center, which is typically open from May to October, has declined in recent years. A total of 7,560 people visited in 2013; 9,103 in 2012; 9,833 in 2011; and 16,162 in 2010.

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