STURGIS | A massive, 40-foot tall motorcycle reaching skyward could welcome visitors to Sturgis in the future.
That's just one of the ideas a task force charged with revitalizing the downtown corridor has offered. It would be a private venture of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum to come up with the money to make the larger-than-life motorcycle emerging from the museum a reality.
Other ideas offered at the revitalization meeting Monday at the Sturgis Community Center were a downtown plaza and walking street between Main and Lazelle on Second Street, a splash water park adjacent the community center and mixed use facilities in the downtown corridor that would combine retail with residential housing options.
The plaza would cover the existing First Interstate parking lot on the northwest corner of Main Street with vendor areas jutting into Second Street. The plaza would be closed during the weeks of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, said Scott Reiman of First Interstate Bank.
"During the rally we would need that lot back," he told the nearly 100 people gathered for the revitalization meeting Monday.
Eirik Heikes of FourFront Design Inc. of Rapid City presented the overview of the projects at Monday's meeting. He is serving as the consultant to the city on the framework process. FourFront was involved with revitalization efforts in downtown Rapid City and in particular with the Main Street Square and surrounding projects.
The plaza, walking street, splash park and possible skating rink adjacent the community center would all be city-funded projects that would be implemented in phases as money became available.
An audience member asked how much property taxes would go up to fund the projects.
Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie assured the woman that revenues for the projects would come from leasing out vendor space during the rally.
"We have strategies to not increase taxes," he said.
Ainslie and Heikes are part of a group of Sturgis residents that have been meeting for the past four months to determine how to make Sturgis’ Main Street a viable part of the community year around.
For many, the chief complaint about living in Sturgis is that the Main Street buildings sit empty for 10 months or more out of the year. But the Downtown Sturgis Revitalization Committee says they are working to remedy the situation.
The meeting Monday was the second open house for the task force. The first open house in September discussed how to create a roadmap for success.
The Monday meeting identified the four pilot projects that would “bring the flavor back” to the downtown district with hopes to return a vibrant economy that attracts businesses, and revenues year round.
Heikes said downtown Sturgis acts as a gauge that represents economics of the community for visitors and citizens. But many on hand Monday agreed the downtown cooridor is a poor representation.
Task force member and Sturgis business owner Branden Bestgen said it's time to turn the tide in downtown Sturgis.
"It took 20 to 30 years to get to this point," he said. "If we don't start changing things, in 20 years we will be having the same discussions."
Part of the plan includes creating a downtown overlay district that has its own special planning and zoning criteria. In that zone, mixed uses such as retail and residential would be allowed in the same building. Planned unit developments would also be allowed as would modified setbacks so long as 50 percent of a lot is covered with building/auxiliary use. Having the setbacks would provide for businesses to retain their year-round business focus during the rally while still renting vendor space along Main Street during the rally.
Also suggested for the overlay district would be to establish standards for architectural and signage.
The downtown cooridor also should have a managing entity, much Destination Rapid City, which would serve as a catalyst and empower businesses within the area. The managing entity would organize events and work through a memorandum of understanding with the city of Sturgis.
In order to move forward, the city needs to enforce building code requirements for properties in the downtown district, said Ainslie.
"These requirements would be triggered by change in occupancy or change in use" he said. "It's tough for businesses to open when they have to invest $20,000 for HVAC or electrical."
The city also has begun a facade loan program to help businesses in the downtown that want to make aesthetic improvements to the outside of their building.
"Success breeds success," Ainslie said.
The task force also suggests the formation of a business improvement district in which business owners from Lazelle to Sherman and Middle Street to Fourth Street would be assessed $2 to $5 per lineal footage of their business. The money would be used to promote downtown events, education and organization.
"It's a way to bring more people downtown during the year," Ainslie said.