Mitchell Main Street & Beyond members tour restored Sioux Falls buildingDowntown committee wants to find ways to help revive and improve Mitchell’s historic structures.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — Old buildings can have new life, according to members of a Mitchell Main Street & Beyond committee who saw an example of that in Sioux Falls recently.
Members of MMS&B’s Economic Restructuring Committee toured a nearly completed rehabilitation project in downtown Sioux Falls on Nov. 30.
Grant Houwman, of Houwman Insurance, in Sioux Falls, who is the brother of Mitchell physical therapist Scott Houwman, a former councilman, took the group on a tour of 300 S. Main Ave., an old Chevrolet dealership that will soon house a law firm.
There are four Houwman brothers and they own H4J1 Development Companies, which has restored four buildings in downtown Sioux Falls. They have considered doing the same work in Mitchell and see a lot of potential in Mitchell’s downtown, Grant Houwman said.
“You guys have such beautiful buildings, but they need a lot of work,” he said.
“You have such potential to restore your downtown to make it an even greater tourism attraction than it is now. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of effort and your entire community has to be behind it.”
“This was a great opportunity to see how that project has progressed,” said MMS&B Executive Director Molly Goldsmith. “They used the bones of the building to make it unique.”
The Art Deco building was constructed in the 1920s and has 12,500 square feet in the upper area and 18,000 square feet in a lower level that was once a mechanical workshop for the dealership and is now an underground garage.
The Boyce, Greenfield, Pashby & Welk law firm will move into the building this month.
“They literally restored the building,” Goldsmith said. “It’s restored to what it looked like previously. They did a really great job on it.”
She was on the tour along with Grant and Scott Houwman, Jeff Logan, owner of Logan Luxury Theatres, and Jan Christensen, who owns The Western, a downtown Mitchell building, and Ben Franklin Crafts, which is in the building.
During the tour, they discussed financial incentives and how older buildings can be made energy efficient and affordable to restore. There’s a lesson for Mitchell, Goldsmith said.
While many Sioux Falls projects are running in the millions, work in downtown Mitchell can be done cheaper, she said.
Many of Mitchell’s buildings do not need to be completely gutted, Goldsmith said, and can be remodeled or restored for comparatively reasonable amounts.
Grant Houwman said Sioux Falls has a program where the city “buys” the front foot of a building to assist in restoring and replacing windows, glass and the facades. Federal tax credits are available, he said, and local dollars can be used to assist developers in restoring buildings.
“To me, if you build it, they will come,” Houwman said. “If you can get your business community and people to support this, your kids and grandkids will enjoy it for years to come. But you don’t have a lot of the programs available.”
Mitchell has a large downtown that has value, she said. The buildings that were built in the early part of the 20th century have charms and strengths that can be used to make them more attractive to businesses and tenants, Goldsmith said.
“Mitchell has one of the most intact downtowns that people have ever seen,” she said.
She said it’s a more vibrant area than some people may know. In her six months on the job, five new businesses have opened and three have relocated.
Three more businesses are planning openings, Goldsmith said, and another will shift locations.
“More people seem to be paying attention to it, which is nice,” she said.
“I think of Mitchell as very ‘hometown,’ ” Goldsmith said. “We cannot try to be Sioux Falls. We should try to be Mitchell.”
Grant Houwman said what has happened in Sioux Falls can happen in Mitchell if the community wants to make it become a reality. He said he’s willing to speak to the Mitchell City Council or any other group on what can be done.
“You can move mountains, you really can,” Houwman said.
“You will never regret that investment, I can assure you that. That’s the face of your whole community, your downtown.”