Demolition approved: Pair of downtown Mitchell buildings damaged by 2021 vehicle crash to be torn down

Upon reviewing the proposed plan to raze the corroding properties, City Planner Mark Jenniges said the state Historic Preservation Office recommended against tearing down the damaged buildings

The front side of the damaged 112 and 114 E. First Ave. buildings that will soon be torn down. The Mitchell buildings were struck by a vehicle in 2021, and the owners of the property requested the city to approve a demolition project.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — A pair of downtown Mitchell buildings along the corner of First Avenue and Lawler Street that were hit by a drunk driver two years ago will soon become a pile of rubble.

After being struck by an impaired driver a little over two years ago, the pair of buildings, located at 112 and 114 E. First Ave., sustained major structural damage on the front of the properties. Since then, the buildings have been blocked off with construction cones and caution signs.

The eyesore was addressed during Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting when the council unanimously approved a resolution that gave the green light for both dilapidated properties to be demolished.

City Planner Mark Jenniges said the owners of the building requested the permit to tear down the conjoined properties in November.

“As you are aware, this building had an accident in front of it in December 2021. It’s been like that ever since then,” Jenniges said during Monday’s council meeting.


The front side of the damaged 112 and 114 E. First Ave. buildings that will soon be torn down. The Mitchell buildings were struck by a vehicle in 2021, which inflicted major damage to the structures.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Considering the buildings are located in the downtown historic district, Jenniges said the project was required to be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office, more commonly referred to as SHPO. Upon reviewing the proposed plan to raze the corroding properties, Jenniges said SHPO recommended against tearing down the damaged buildings.

Jenniges read a letter submitted by SHPO explaining why the entity recommended against tearing the buildings down. SHPO’s letter stated, “It is the final opinion of SHPO that this project will destroy historic property, and alternatives to this project have not been adequately considered and should be further explored.”

While the state’s Historic Preservation Office recommended against demolishing the buildings, Mitchell’s Historic Preservation Commission recently concluded there were “no feasible options but to demolish” the properties, Jenniges said.

“They found that with all the damage that was done, the deterioration and lack of maintenance over the years that there were no feasible options but to demo the building. That was sent back to SHPO, and they requested some more photos,” Jenniges said of Mitchell historic preservation commission’s decision.

A sidewalk closed sign sits on the sidewalk at the corner of East First Avenue and North Lawler Street on Friday, March 10, 2023, in Mitchell. The buildings that were struck by a vehicle in 2021 forced city officials to close a portion of the sidewalk.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Although the damage to the front end of the building facing First Avenue prompted city officials to block off a small section of sidewalk along the property, Jenniges said the city has yet to declare it a public nuisance.

“We have not tagged it as that (public nuisance) yet, except for it is a safety hazard to pedestrians on the sidewalk since none of that has been taken care of,” Jenniges said.

In response to SHPO’s recommendation against tearing the structures down, Dave Allen, an owner of Tobin’s Transfer and Storage, a longtime Mitchell moving company that owns the buildings, offered to sell the property to the SHPO for $1. Council member Dan Allen abstained from voting on the demolition permit, citing conflict of interest stemming from his brother owning the property.

SHPO’s opposition of the demolition project isn’t a first for historic Mitchell buildings. Among recent Mitchell demolition projects the state entity recommended against was tearing down Prather Hall on Dakota Wesleyan University’s campus. The council overrode that recommendation as well, which cleared the way for the century-old campus building to come down in 2022.


At the corner of East First Avenue and North Lawler Street sits the pair of buildings, center, waiting for demolition.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

In 2021, a former corroding building located on the same corner lot along First Avenue and Lawler Street was razed. When the 112 and 114 E. First Ave. properties come down soon, it will leave one building standing alone in between two bare lots.

According to Jenniges, over the past two years, the properties garnered some interest from potential buyers. However, those interests haven’t materialized into any land sales.

“We’ve had interested parties come to the city and to the owners of these buildings to tear down and build new,” Jenniges said.

Jenniges explained potential future redevelopment opportunities of the lot that sits along a busy downtown corridor surrounded by businesses. An example of future developments, he said, could be a mixture of business use and apartments.

Jenniges noted any redevelopment on the lots that entails building new structures would once again require plans to be reviewed by SHPO.

As for the timeline of the project, Jenniges estimated demolition work could begin as early as April. The timeline hinges on SHPO certifying that the entity has read and received the council’s decision on the project.

A fake owl used to scare away birds sits perched on one of the downtown Mitchell buildings that was damaged by a vehicle crash in 2021.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

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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