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Downtown Mitchell intersection proposed to undergo major improvements as part of streetscape project

“This project would bring a lot of big improvements to the areas in focus. The streetscape would be very similar to what you see at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Main Street where the Corn Palace Plaza sits,” said Public Works Director Joe Schroeder during Monday's special City Council meeting.

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Vehicles align Mitchell's downtown business district on Oct. 2, 2020, as people shopped inside local businesses on Main Street. In the month of October, Mitchell's sales tax revenue remained strong in the midst of the pandemic. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

As city officials look for ways to beautify Mitchell’s Main Street, advancing the streetscape project has come into focus.

As part of a $2.6 million infrastructure improvement project for a portion of Fifth and Ninth avenues, stretching along from North Lawler Street to Highway 37, the streetscape side of the project would add landscape features, green space and bump outs to the Fifth Avenue and Main Street intersection. During the Mitchell City Council’s budgeting work session on Monday, Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said the bump outs at Fifth and Ninth avenues would be the same design concepts of the bump outs and landscaping at the Corn Palace Plaza and Chamber of Commerce building on Main Street.

“This project would bring a lot of big improvements to the areas in focus,” Schroeder said. “The streetscape would be very similar to what you see at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Main Street where the Corn Palace Plaza sits.”

Confluence, a Sioux Falls-based landscape and architecture design firm, would design the streetscape features, if the council approves including the project in the 2022 budget that’s being discussed. Confluence is familiar with Mitchell’s Main Street, as it was the firm that designed the Corn Palace Plaza and the green space that was included on the bump outs.

City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein said the goal for the streetscape project at the Fifth Avenue and Main Street intersection is to complete it in conjunction with the infrastructure improvements that the city has plans to bring to a portion of Fifth Avenue.

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“The thought process was that the intersections are going to be done and road surfacing, utility improvements and streetscape would be done all at once so we’re not tearing up new work that was just completed,” Ellwein said.

For the infrastructure work that would make the majority of the costs of the $2.6 million project, Schroeder said it will entail replacing old cast iron water mains and clay pipe to improve the drainage along Fifth and Ninth avenues, stretching from North Lawler Street to Highway 37.

“Everyone sees the street above the ground, but nobody sees what’s underground. So we would be replacing that old 4-inch cast iron water main with new 6-inch PVC pipe,” Schroeder said. “We’re focusing on 4-inch water lines that are cast iron and clay sanitary sewer pipes. We’re finding where those two are together and getting these projects together to get our new utility improvements in place.”

BID tax coming into play for streetscape project

With the aging buildings that align Mitchell’s Main Street, some of which were recently demolished due to severe corroding and hazardous conditions, the city has been honing in on ways to revitalize downtown.

In an attempt to begin the revitalization of downtown, Mitchell Main Street and Beyond orchestrated the creation of a special assessment tax roughly three years ago that’s known as the Business Improvement District (BID) No. 3. Since then, just over 70 properties located within the BID boundaries have been subject to pay a special assessment tax that is being redistributed to those properties with the goal of improving the downtown area.

As several downtown properties have been awarded funds for aesthetic improvements they have made to their buildings, such as The Collective and the former Cherrybees buildings on Main Street, Ellwein said the BID board has been reserving some of the funds generated from the BID tax to allocate for some of the work that would be included in the streetscape project.

Matt Doerr, former Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce treasurer, recently donated the roughly $19,000 he made off the sale of the Casey’s lot on Seventh Avenue and Main Street to the city’s streetscape project, giving the plan more financial backing to continue.

“Mitchell Main Street and Beyond was going to have some discussions about this with business owners to see if they would like an alternate to improve their space like the Chamber did in front of their space to really improve that corner as well,” Ellwein said.

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While Fifth Avenue and Main Street is the only intersection included in the $2.6 million infrastructure plan, Ellwein said the Third Avenue and Main Street intersection is planned to see similar improvements down the road as part of the streetscape project.

With the recent approval of a California developer’s plans to remodel the former Crafty Fox building into a mixture of loft apartments and a restaurant, alongside the features of the streetscape project, it would drastically enhance the Third Avenue and Main Street intersection.

“I think you will see a majority of those features at Third and Main because that’s the larger enhanced bump outs where they were going to pay for the planters, trees and shrubbery,” Ellwein said, noting some of the landscape features included in the streetscape project will likely be budgeted out of the city’s entertainment tax fund.

In addition, Ellwein said there have been discussions of potentially camouflaging the electrical panels at some of the downtown intersections.

Schroeder noted the Fifth and Ninth Avenue utility improvement project would be funded without the city having to take any loans out. The council will ultimately have the final say in whether the project, which includes a portion of the Main Street streetscape plan, will be included in the 2022 budget.

“This project is planned to be consumed within the regular budget with no loan,” Schroeder said.

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Visitors make their way to the Corn Palace on Thursday. The Valtiroty Shiloh's Tabernacle building sits at the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and North Main Street across from City Hall. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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