Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender wants to give, lease or otherwise make a piece of city land available to a local development foundation for a proposed innovation incubator.
In a letter Monday to members of the city council, Allender identified the property as a 4.3-acre parcel at 108 E. Main St., directly east of the city’s main fire station and midway between downtown and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
The city acquired the property for $1.4 million in 2012. Allender said the land was planned to be the site of a new main fire station, but the city has scrapped that idea for the time being.
Allender’s letter said he now wants to “gift, or otherwise provide the use of” the lot for an innovation incubator. He discussed the concept in more detail during a Journal interview Monday afternoon.
“This would create better opportunities for Mines graduates to start up their own businesses here as opposed to other places,” Allender said.
The incubator would be operated by the Rapid City Economic Development Foundation, which already operates the Black Hills Business Development Center on the Mines campus.
The center’s executive director, Terri Haverly, said the center is full to overflowing with about 20 rent-paying companies. Some of the funding obtained for the building’s construction in 2006 came with a stipulation that the building remain in use as a business incubator through 2025, Haverly said. The proposed new incubator would therefore operate in addition to the existing center, as another place for young companies to start up or grow before moving out.
The incubator would begin as remodeled space in an existing warehouse-style building on the city lot. That building currently houses Pennington County’s 24/7 Sobriety program, for which the county would find a new home if necessary, Sheriff Kevin Thom said Monday. The county had planned to move the program into a former National American University building that the county is renovating near the courthouse, but the county has since determined there is insufficient space for the program there, Thom said.
If the incubator succeeds in the existing building at the city lot, a new building could eventually be constructed. Haverly said the Rapid City Economic Development Foundation has funding to undertake the project if an agreement is reached with the city for the land.
As for the main fire station, Allender said the city continues to be interested in a bigger and more modern space for it. The neighboring Cornerstone Rescue Mission is considering a future move to an as-yet-undetermined location, Allender said, and he thinks the city should wait and potentially acquire the Cornerstone property to provide more space for the fire department.
Allender said in his letter that the innovation incubator project will be on Wednesday’s agenda for the city’s Legal and Finance Committee and Monday’s agenda for the city council.
“There has been a great deal of planning and preparation leading up to this point,” Allender wrote in the letter. “This project is seen by all in the economic development community, as well as those representing the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, as a win-win and a great example of a public/private partnership.”