Kristi Cammack has a joke ready for the people who walk into her new office space expecting to find its former occupant, First Interstate Bank.

“We’ll take your deposit,” Cammack tells visitors with a smile, “but we don’t allow any withdrawals.”

Cammack is the director of South Dakota State University’s newly consolidated West River Research and Extension facility at 711 N. Creek Drive near Menards in eastern Rapid City.

The ground floor of the building formerly housed a First Interstate Bank branch, which moved to 847 N. Creek Drive.

The South Dakota State University Foundation bought the former bank building for $3.34 million last year. SDSU had already been renting space for its Extension program in the building’s basement. The purchase of the building allowed SDSU to consolidate the Extension operation with agricultural faculty members and researchers, who relocated to the former bank building in July from their old West River Agricultural Center offices at 1905 N. Plaza Blvd. in western Rapid City.

As a result of the consolidation, two sets of personnel who formerly worked 7 miles apart are now under one roof. About 30 people work at the new location, and Cammack said she is noticing positive results.

“There is a lot more dynamic interaction that happens in this place,” she said.

For SDSU, the move combined the West River Extension program and its public outreach functions, such as 4-H, gardening advice and nutrition education, under a common roof with researchers who study plants, soil, livestock, grazing and other aspects of western South Dakota agriculture.

The building has ample space to host meetings and accommodate future growth, although some remodeling is needed. Currently, a makeshift lab is set up behind the former bank's teller counters. Cammack said bank customers still stop by routinely, including some who walk in with a confused look, and others who depart upon reading the sign on the front door.

SDSU’s purchase of the former bank building is part of a broader reorganization of its West River agricultural outreach and research efforts.

An SDSU property near Box Elder, at 22735 Radar Hill Road, was auctioned in August for $405,000 to Scull Construction. The property had been used as a shop, dry laboratory and staging area to support agricultural research across western South Dakota.

Those operations have moved to a 111-acre research farm near Sturgis that SDSU acquired last year, utilizing about $900,000 approved by the Legislature to buy the property and construct a large building with a shop, storage area, classroom space, offices and labs.

At the same August auction where the Box Elder property was sold, SDSU tried to sell its recently vacated building in western Rapid City at 1905 N. Plaza Blvd. No bids above the minimum $900,000 (based on a 2017 appraisal) were received, so the state is having the property re-appraised to potentially be put up for auction again.

The sales of the Box Elder and Rapid City properties were authorized by the Legislature and governor last winter. Also authorized by the same legislation were sales of SDSU grassland near Volga (which will be auctioned Sept. 26) and SDSU farmland near Highmore (which will be auctioned Oct. 8). The auctions will be conducted by the state's Office of School & Public Lands.

Proceeds from the sales have been designated to help complete the purchase of the eastern Rapid City building and to help purchase farmland near Brookings that SDSU has been leasing for many years.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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