Business Improvement District (BID)
In 1985, city officials implemented a tax increment district in downtown Rapid City. By 1989, the city, in conjunction with the Downtown Development Corporation, proposed creating the downtown Business Improvement District (BID). The BID would create a district within a defined area in downtown Rapid City that would annual dues from downtown businesses with a formula based on the square footage of the building the business owned or rented. Funds would be used for “physical improvements, marketing programs, and other activities” (Rapid City Journal, 1989).
The BID met opposition from some business owners who warned that additional taxes could be over $5000, and from city residents who believed that the BID process was undemocratic. The City Council approved BID 5-4 on April 19, 1990. BID opponents circulated referral petitions in June 1990 for a special election in July 1990, and BID supporters filed a lawsuit claiming the petition was illegal and roughly one-fourth of the signatures on the petition were invalid. 7th Circuit Judge Merton Tice Jr. ruled that 549 of the signatures on the petition were invalid, therefore allowing BID to move forward. The first BID meeting was held in July 1990, with board members focusing on business growth and downtown aesthetics.
Soon after this first meeting, BID opponents began circulating two petitions: one to repeal the BID ordinance, and another to repeal the BID tax. On October 1, 1990, the city attorney informed the Common Council that BID opponents had filed a suit against the city requesting that their BID tax money be refunded. On October 15, the Common Council set a special election for December 4, 1990 on two initiated measures that would repeal the BID tax and the tax on the district. Voters decided to repeal the BID tax and the tax district.
Twenty years after the defeat of the BID, Rapid City decided to explore the BID once more. On February 22, 2010, the Rapid City Council voted to move forward with recreating the BID in downtown Rapid City. BID opponents filed a petition to have the plan put on the ballot, and the petition was approved in May 2010. Voters approved the BID on June 29, 2010. As of 2021, the BID is still in place in Rapid City and has helped to fund multiple projects including upgrading lighting in downtown Rapid City, new tree grates, and a team that regularly washes sidewalks, waters downtown plants, and cleans historic placards.
Presidential Statues in Downtown Rapid City
In November 2000, the life-size statues of George Washington, John Adams, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush were revealed. The City of Presidents Foundation funded the project, which employed South Dakota artists to create bronze statues of every president. The project drew controversy in March 2001 when it was revealed that the Public Art Committee, a subcommittee of the Rapid City Arts Council, had not voted to approve the process of placing presidential statues in the downtown area. Under city law, a proposal had to be made to the Rapid City Arts Council’s Public Art Committee before art could be placed in a public area.
The Rapid City council told the Public Art Committee to make a recommendation by May 7, 2001 regarding what to do with the City of Presidents project. On May 7, the committee responded that the four current statues could remain in place and that the next four could be created, but they needed more time to review the project, and asked for 90 days to come to a resolution. The Rapid City Council decided to approve the whole project on May 21, 2001, allowing the City of Presidents Foundation to move forward with placing more statues in downtown Rapid City.
A lawsuit was filed shortly thereafter by a group of citizens who claimed the Rapid City Council had improperly handled the review and debate on the project. The plaintiffs asked that the current statues be removed and no more statues be placed in the downtown area. Seventh Circuit Judge Merton B. Tice Jr. ruled against the group in November 2001, stating that the city council had followed the law. The public arts committee was dissolved as of February 2002.
The City of Presidents project now has forty-three presidential statues installed along Main Street and Saint Joseph Street in downtown Rapid City. More information about the individual statues and a downloadable walking guide can be found on the Visit Rapid City website.
Presidents Plaza was a planned addition to downtown beginning in 2006. It would have been a mixed-use facility that would have parking, residential, and commercial areas. The structure would have been built at Sixth and Saint Joseph Street with construction expected to begin in 2013. Plans stalled in December 2013 when the Rapid City Council voted to put Presidents Plaza under contract by 2015 with construction starting in the first six months of 2016. A development plan was never approved and the Presidents Plaza was declared dead in 2016.
In 2019, Mayor Steve Allender enlisted the help of Elevate Rapid City to re-imagine the development of Presidents Plaza. A new project, Block Five, was developed by Lloyd Companies, the City of Rapid City, and Elevate Rapid City in 2019 and was approved in 2021. The planned construction is a five-story project with apartments, a hotel, and retail space.