Future of Presidents Plaza now in the hands of Elevate Rapid City

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A downtown parking lot could get new life. Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender is hoping to get the ball rolling once again on the property known as Presidents Plaza at the corner of Fifth Street and Saint Joseph Street. However, the city is outsourcing who picks the design to Elevate Rapid City.

Property formerly known as Presidents Plaza is located on the corner of Fifth Street and St. Joseph Street.

"There's been a lot of questions over the last several year about this lot and what it might hold for our future," Allender said. "I think this is going to be the cornerstone development for the new downtown Rapid City."

To facilitate which project will be selected, Elevate Rapid City will take control of the initial planning stage, however, the city council will still have the final say.

Elevate Rapid City is a public/private economic development organization sponsored, in part, by some Rapid City's biggest developers - something Allender does not see as a conflict of interest.

"We would not put an Elevate sponsor's proposed project at the top of the list without justification or some type of objective criteria," Allender said. "I don't see that as being a problem at all."

The sentiment was echoed by David Lust, who chairs the executive committee in charge of the selection process.

"As chair, I will make sure there are no conflicts of interest," Lust said. "If someone does have a conflict of interest or is an investor in a potential project they will not be asked to participate."

The new interest in the parking lot comes after developing titan Hani Shafai attempted to build a $40 million, 15-story structure on the site that was ultimately scuttled by the city council in 2016 after more than 10 years of planning.

"The Presidents Plaza development failed and, by my perspective, it failed primarily at the hands of the City of Rapid City," Allender said. "The council voted unanimously at that time to allow the R.F.P. process, the vetting of projects and all that first phase of the selection process to be completed without their involvement."

Now Elevate is accepting and will review project proposals and choose one to submit to the city council, but until then the process will be kept from the public.

"I don't believe the initial letters of interest will be open to the public. We're not going submit the proposals to a public vote," Allender said. "I think we are going to keep that within the group for the vetting process and when a proposal is selected then at that point it would start to become public."

No mater what goes there, Allender says it will not be called Presidents Plaza.