Rapid City: More Than A Gateway Pt. 2

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

The City of Presidents used to be a quick stop for tourists on their way to somewhere in the Black Hills. Now, it's become a destination in its own right.

Main Street Square holds events year-round, where tourists enjoy the high energy atmosphere and locals know there is always something happening. Dan Senftner, the President and CEO of Destination Rapid City, said the downtown area is thriving.

"The mayor's office will tell you they're getting more phone calls now about downtown Rapid City, and Rapid City being a destination, than they've ever had."

READ MORE: Mayor Allender hopes to continue momentum in second term

Ten years ago, Main Street Square was just a conversation. Now, Senftner calls it Rapid City's "living room." More people are attending events at the Square and spending their money at downtown businesses, for an ever-flowing economic impact.

Long Range Planner for the City of Rapid City, Sarah Hanzel, explained the types of institutions downtown.

"You think of county offices, city offices - the federal government has offices downtown," Hanzel said. "Also institutions like the School of Mines. There really is a major concentration for employment. And what feeds that, as well then, are the businesses that support that. There's restaurants and retail and different types of services business that all kind of work together that all create a sort of ecosystem for a successful downtown in terms of the economics."

But they want to see economic growth. The Downtown Master Plan for expansion will create a new zoning district from 5th Street to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.  

"This zoning district will be kind of a hybrid of what's referred to as the Central Business District," Hanzel said. "And so, what we're trying to do in creating this new district is loosen some of the regulatory barriers that are currently faced between School of Mines and 5th Street, make it easier to develop housing, make it easier to develop mixed-used.” 

READ MORE: Vacancies present revitalization opportunity for downtown Rapid City

The expansion creates more housing and local business opportunities. Planners and officials say with things in motion, the future of downtown is looking bright.

"We're not talking anymore about what we should do, we're doing it," Senftner said. "The Master Plan is a huge thing to help transform downtown living - more parking space, more unification of what we're doing. So as I look at the next 10 years, the next 5 years -  if you look at what's happened in the last 5 years and what will happen in the next 10 - we will double what we're doing because we are on a fast pace now.”

With the art district located downtown, the Don Barnett Arena in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and entertainment all being located in one area, it not only solidifies the future of Rapid City, but of the downtown area itself.

In her third and final installment of Rapid City: More Than A Gateway, Monica Davis relays future options for the arena and Civic Center, as well as its economic contribution. Watch parts one and two here

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