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Historic group backs plan for renovation of Corn Palace

A renovated Corn Palace would feature larger murals and LED-lighted domes.

The Mitchell Historic Preservation Commission unanimously endorsed a renovation plan for the Corn Palace.

The commission’s minutes and decision from its Thursday meeting at City Hall are the last part of a report sent to the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office for its review.

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Mark Schilling, director of the city-owned Corn Palace, said the city does not need the state office’s approval to go forward with the $7.175 million project, but disapproval by the state office could make the project more difficult.

“If they don’t approve it, the city can still go ahead and do it — it’s just that it could add more steps to go through and it could get tied up in other legal battles,” Schilling said after the meeting.

Schilling said the Corn Palace is a contributing structure to Mitchell’s Historic Commercial District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The district’s listing is what required the review process.

Doug Dailey, chairman of a committee that proposed the renovation, presented the project to the commission Thursday with help from committee members and architect Sean Ervin, of TSP in Sioux Falls.

Dailey said the committee hopes the project will draw more visitors for longer periods of time.

“We think and hope it’ll draw more people into the Corn Palace because they can see there are more places to roam,” Dailey said. “There have been comments made that most people just drive by to take a photo and don’t stop.”

Dailey said the implementation of larger murals, more decorative ceramic tile, a balcony above the marquee, large windows to allow more light and LED lighted domes that can change color are planned.

The Corn Palace’s attached northern neighbor, City Hall, once it is vacated, will be the second phase of the Corn Palace renovation. Dailey said it will include exhibits about corn on the main floor and a permanent theater for showing short movies. A new city hall is planned in southern downtown. The city has issued bonds already to cover most of the costs.

Dailey told the commission longevity is the goal. The Corn Palace committee and the architects want to create a structure that uses materials that will have longer lifespans and won’t need as much maintenance.

The Corn Palace committee will now send the project case report to the State Historic Preservation Office, which has 30 days to respond from the day the office receives the report, said Liz Almlie, state historic preservation specialist.

Dailey said the committee is optimistic phase one of the renovations will begin in the spring.