While a California developer’s plan to remodel the former Crafty Fox building has sparked excitement among city officials, he’s coming up against some challenges that could jeopardize the plan.

From maintaining the historical nature of the downtown building to meeting the city’s building codes, John Adamo’s plans of remodeling the 223 N. Main St. building into a mixture of 30 loft apartments and a restaurant won’t be an easy feat. But city officials are working to advance the project along as swiftly as possible to bring what Mayor Bob Everson says would be a “big win” for Mitchell’s Main Street.

“We’re hoping it becomes an anchor to facilitate more development and improvements to Main Street as a whole,” Everson said.

The city Planning and Zoning Commission was set to vote on Adamo’s remodeling plans for the first time during Monday’s meeting, but it was turned into a discussion item since there weren’t enough members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission present to vote.

Mitchell’s Planning and Zoning Commission is made up of seven members, but two were absent Monday, while two of the members who were present removed themselves from voting on the proposed plan, citing conflict of interest. That meant three members on the board were able to vote Monday. Under state law, a city board made up of seven members must have at least four present to legally vote on agenda items and take action during a respective meeting, which is known as a quorum.

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Despite the lack of a quorum, Adamo’s plans for the former Crafty Fox building were discussed at length during Monday’s meeting. Larry Jirsa and Kevin Genzlinger were the Planning Commission members who removed themselves from voting citing conflict of interest, as both of them are working with the California developer to remodel the downtown building.

“To make the 30 apartments work we’re going to have to replace the elevator. The existing elevator shaft is not adequate for a modern elevator, so that would have to be demolished and for a new shaft to be built,” Jirsa said. “There is only one stairway in the center of the building. We’re proposing to build a new stairway at the west end of the building that goes to all floors.”

Shown here is the former Crafty Fox building located at 223 N. Main St. that the city of Mitchell is seeking to repair. The Mitchell City Council will consider approving a masonry company to make an emergency repair for the southeast portion of the roof wall during Monday's special council meeting at City Hall. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Shown here is the former Crafty Fox building located at 223 N. Main St. that the city of Mitchell is seeking to repair. The Mitchell City Council will consider approving a masonry company to make an emergency repair for the southeast portion of the roof wall during Monday's special council meeting at City Hall. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Considering the building is deemed historic, Jirsa said Adamo’s plans of remodeling it will try to meet the standards to maintain the historical nature of the building. To maintain the historic status, the renovation work must meet the requirements outlined by the State Historic Preservation Office, which the city’s building inspector John Hegg has previously explained can be “very difficult.”

“At our last builders association conference, a topic of discussion was that if we don’t do nothing, these buildings will never get used,” Hegg said of the proposed remodeling plans.

By maintaining the historic nature to meet the State Historic Preservation Office requirements, it opens up more grant funding opportunities, such as the Deadwood Historic Grant, which Jirsa said is “critical to making the project work.”

Commission member Genzlinger, a project manager for Mitchell-based Ciavarella Design Architects, is working with Adamo on preserving the historic nature of the building.

Another challenge that the remodeling project faces is meeting the city’s building codes. In an effort to meet some of the city’s building codes, Jirsa said plans call for installing a sprinkler system throughout the building and adding a fire-rated stairway. In addition, Jirsa said new electrical wiring, plumbing and HVAC systems will be installed, which he noted makes up the “primary costs” of the project.

The restaurant would be located on the main floor of the building, while the 30-unit apartment complex would take up the top floors, Jirsa noted.

“We’re trying to do some things to improve the condition of the building, but if you look at it compared to exactly what the code book is today, we probably aren’t going to get those conditions,” Jirsa said. “We’re trying to make the building safer. To make it comply exactly with code may be a financial disaster for the project.”

Regardless of whether Adamo is able to meet the city’s building codes in full, Hegg said the major improvements that will be made to the building is a win.

“There might be a few things we won’t meet 100% ... Anytime you improve an old building in any aspect, every building official in the state calls it a win,” Hegg said. “So that’s where I’m sitting.”

Saving an old downtown building

Adamo’s plans to develop the former Crafty Fox building come after the city recently settled a lawsuit with the previous property owners, who alleged the city of Mitchell took ownership of the nuisance building in 2019 through threats and conspiracy that violated their civil rights.

As the aging building has been deteriorating over the years, experiencing broken windows, corroding brick siding and roof issues, the city has recently been investing in repairs in hopes of attracting a buyer and developer.

Shown here is the portion of the southeast roof atop the former Crafty Fox building that recently corroded. The Mitchell City Council will enter into a special meeting on Monday to approve an emergency repair for the portion of the roof. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Shown here is the portion of the southeast roof atop the former Crafty Fox building that recently corroded. The Mitchell City Council will enter into a special meeting on Monday to approve an emergency repair for the portion of the roof. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

“We’re getting this building in good shape to be redeveloped for a reason. It has tremendous potential for years to come,” Everson said.

Adamo is the type of developer Everson was hoping to see come into the picture. As a handful of old buildings in downtown Mitchell have withered away beyond repair, leading the city to come in and demolish the structures, Adamo’s plan would save the building from becoming another empty lot on Main Street.

Project timeline, parking concerns

Jirsa stressed the project will hinge on an aggressive timeline for the remodeling plan to materialize. According to Jirsa, Adamo has outlined an eight-month timeline to complete the project due to Adamo’s plan of selling one of his California properties.

“We’re in a time crunch. If the project is going to be successful, it has to move fast. (Adamo) told me that if this concept is approved, I’d have 60 days to get a price on the specs, and he’d have 180 days to spend the money,” Jirsa said. “If we want to put an elevator in and a stairway, we need to start demolition right away.”

With the scarcity of parking along Main Street, Jirsa said it’s an important part of the project.

The plan is to use the vacant lot across the street on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street for tenants occupying the building, Jirsa said, noting Adamo plans to purchase the lot that sits just across the street on the north side of the former Crafty Fox building, which is owned by the Mitchell Area Development Corporation.

Shown here is the corner lot that four groups are looking to develop on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Shown here is the corner lot that four groups are looking to develop on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

“I know that a project like this won’t ever fly downtown without parking,” Jirsa said.

Commission member Jon Osterloo addressed a concern he has with turning the vacant lot on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street into a parking space,

“It takes away future development of that lot,” Osterloo said of the empty lot that stretches from Einstein’s to Third Avenue.

Given the aggressive timeline that Adamo is under to move forward with the project, the Planning Commission could take action on his plans for the downtown building at its next meeting on Aug. 23.