BID tax, other resources help property owner revitalize old building in heart of Mitchell's Main Street

The exterior enhancements Melissa Schwalm has made to her building are a breath of life into an aging downtown Mitchell that’s seen a handful of dilapidated buildings get demolished.

The store front of Brown's Shoe Fit Company after its renovation on Monday, May 22, 2023, in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Tending to a century-old downtown building has been a labor of love for Melissa Schwalm.

Over the past few years, the Mitchell native has poured time and money into upkeep for a building that’s been a Main Street staple for decades. The latest improvements she’s made can be seen in the new bricks and polished limestone trim along the exterior to the 322 N. Main St. building that houses Brown Shoe Fit Company and her custom framing shop.

“I want to do right by this place and make sure it stays standing. A lot of blood, sweat and tears of my family have been put into this building,” Schwalm said.

Schwalm’s deep connection to the building, which has been a part of her family’s history for decades, has been the inspiration to invest at least $150,000 into improvements in recent years.

But it hasn’t been easy.


“It’s constantly something. When you get done with one project, another one pops up. It’s like whack-a-mole,” Schwalm said. “It’s a labor of love, not so much an investment.”

The limestone corner of Brown's Shoe Fit after renovation on Monday, May 22, 2023, in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Without some of the resources available to assist downtown property owners in maintaining their buildings like the grant funds in the downtown Business Improvement District (BID) tax and Mitchell Main Street and Beyond’s revolving loan fund, Schwalm said it would have been “nearly impossible” to bring the improvements.

“I’ve got around $20,000 in grants from the BID tax that I’ve been paying into, and that really helped me do the work in the front. I also used it for tuckpointing and a roof hatch,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing this without that."

Exterior improvements are typically the exception in Mitchell's downtown district that's seen a handful of dilapidated buildings get demolished in recent years due to their poor condition.

Looking for momentum

While the list of corroding buildings that have been torn down on Main Street has grown, Schwalm isn’t going to let her property be a casualty. And she hopes other building owners do the same to stave off Main Street becoming a “barren wasteland.”

“It’s so sad seeing all these buildings have to come down. I wish more people knew how the BID grants and the Main Street and Beyond loan can help a ton in maintaining their buildings,” she said.

Demolition of the 301 N. Main St. building in Mitchell in 2019.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Schwalm’s work on her building caught the eyes of council member Susan Tjarks, who said Schwalm is one of several examples of how Main Street can be revitalized through tapping into the resources available to property owners.

Although Main Street has taken some hits over the past few years with fewer shops and more nuisance properties, Tjarks emphasized the importance of revitalizing downtown — a place she dubs as the “living room” of Mitchell.


“I think that anything we can do to improve the appearance of downtown is going to raise all the ships. Everyone in the city will benefit from that. That’s how we raise our sales tax revenue and get people to come shop on Main Street,” Tjarks said, noting sales tax revenue makes up a large portion of the city’s revenue to fund projects and city services. “It’s the living room of our community that cannot be neglected.”

Despite the challenges that come with maintaining an aging building, Schwalm is optimistic that the BID tax and Streetscape project will spark more momentum for Mitchell’s Main Street. However, that will hinge on getting more property owners on board with the BID tax, which hasn’t been easy since it was implemented in 2019.

“Last year the direction not to be very aggressive on that was due to COVID-19. We really haven’t come out of that approach yet,” City Attorney Justin Johnson said in regards to the protocol to handle property owners who haven't been paying their BID taxes.

In 2019 — the first full year the BID tax was in effect — it generated $39,443, roughly $9,000 short of the anticipated $48,000 that was projected in the scenarios that all the property owners were up to date on their payments. In 2022, more property owners paid into it, as the BID tax generated $54,474.

According to the BID guidelines, every downtown property located within the boundaries of the BID is subject to an annual special assessment tax based on the assessed value of the property.

Roughly half of the money property owners pay into the BID tax is allocated for building improvements that are awarded in the form of grants, while the other half is dedicated toward the downstown Streetscape project. The Streetscape project is beginning to take off, as the Mitchell City Council has approved adding bumpouts with green space and foliage to additional Main Street intersections.

Drive down Mitchell’s Main Street. Or at least think about your perspective of what Mitchell’s downtown looks like. Now, compare that to someplace you’ve shopped that really stood out

Since the BID tax went into effect, there have been a handful of property owners each year who have used grant funds to bring similar improvements to their downtown buildings. In total, $93,414 has been awarded in grants from the BID tax for property owners who have been paying the annual tax.

As Schwalm put it, “those are the wins we need down here.”

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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