Council will talk, listen on Corn PalaceThe fate of a proposed expansion and renovation of the Corn Palace is the sole topic at a special Mitchell City Council meeting tonight. The council will start holding regular meetings on the “Next Generation Corn Palace” at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers. The special meetings will be held once a month, at least initially.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The fate of a proposed expansion and renovation of the Corn Palace is the sole topic at a special Mitchell City Council meeting tonight.
The council will start holding regular meetings on the “Next Generation Corn Palace” at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers. The special meetings will be held once a month, at least initially.
The meeting is open to the public, and the council wants to hear what people have to say, according to City Council President Jeff Smith.
“The public is going to be able to give their opinion at all the meetings,” Smith said last week. “We want to keep it pretty flexible and open. If anyone has something to say, we want to hear from them.”
The current Corn Palace, which is city-owned, opened in 1921. It was the third version of the building and by far the longest-lasting. The first, a wooden building, was erected in 1892.
For decades, the Corn Palace has been the symbol of Mitchell and a tourist draw. But attendance has shrunk in recent years and, in 2010, the council named a committee to investigate options for improving the current structure.
The committee has discussed the issue, held public meetings to gather input and hired a design firm to come up with a proposed “Next Generation Corn Palace.”
In January, a plan calling for a major restructure of the building was released at a public meeting in the Corn Palace. It included a viewing tower, increased seating and a relocated stage, among other changes.
The design was greeted with effusive praise by most people, but the price tag was not. The design firm Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, of Minneapolis, estimated the cost at $35 million, and that didn’t include land purchases, relocating City Hall and other expenses.
Mayor Lou Sebert and other city officials said the feedback they have received has been clear: That’s too much money.
Smith said he still feels the committee played a significant role.
“I don’t think they wasted any time. One of the things they brought back is if we decide to do the project, it could be phased in,” he said.
Smith said looking at building a new Corn Palace has other benefits as well.
“You do need to have a plan in place in case something happens to the Corn Palace, if it burns down, a tornado strikes or what have you,” he said. “I think the committee did a great job bringing forth the ultimate solution.”
Smith said while the meetings may continue for several months, he feels the community will come together with a plan for altering and improving the Corn Palace.
“Eventually we will get to some options that make some sense that Mitchell would want to proceed with,” he said.
Smith said the city may well have to “pare it back” from the design that was shown in January, but some smaller steps can be taken soon.
“There’s some really inexpensive jobs they brought forward that I think we could move ahead on,” he said.
A mural contest could be held, and a mosaic could be placed on the outside of the building. More flags could be flown to “dress up the exterior,” Smith said.
He said the public needs to have its say and the community must decide as a whole what it wants to do with the Corn Palace. Smith said he’s not sure of a timeline.
“I guess however long it takes to come up with a viable solution. I’m hoping it will not take a year, personally,” he said. “I’d like to see a very good plan in place in six months.”
Smith said the meetings may also address the “other projects confronting us in the city,” such as an indoor pool, a second ice rink, an indoor soccer facility and other needs.
“I honestly believe this is expanding beyond the Corn Palace in mapping out what facilities we do need in Mitchell,” he said.
Tonight, the council will:
n Hear a report from the City Hall Relocation Committee, which has been tasked with seeking a new site for City Hall, which would allow the city to use the current City Hall space for the Corn Palace expansion.
n Hold the first reading of Ordinance 2398, a supplemental appropriation for professional services for City Hall conceptual design. No dollar figure was included in the agenda.
n Hear a report from the Next Generation Corn Palace Committee.
n Ask for public input on the proposed expansion and remodel.
n Discuss a timeline and goals for the Next Generation Corn Palace Development Project.
n Review the city’s cash balance available for capital projects.
n Set a April 9 date for the next council meeting on the Next Generation Corn Palace Area Development Project.