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Downtown Summit Aims To Strengthen SD City Cores

March 27, 2014, 5:00 PM by Hailey Higgins

Downtown Summit Aims To Strengthen SD City Cores

From Sioux Falls to Rapid City, downtown is the heart of many South Dakota communities.

A statewide summit to strengthen those business districts from border to border took place in Mitchell Thursday.

From pan handling to parking, downtowns across South Dakota face a lot of the same issues.

On a snowy day in Mitchell, eight downtown groups from across the state meet to share their successes and learn from others' failures.

"Our downtowns are unique. They are not just a great place for unique businesses, but we share something that areas of development outside of downtown just don't have," Molly Goldsmith with Mitchell Main Street & Beyond said.

Goldsmith says the group is focusing on managing special events and revitalizing the aging buildings in many downtowns across the Mt. Rushmore state.

"Downtown doesn't just play a big role in our economy and history but it is also a gathering place. And a lot of the downtowns that we're talking about, that's what we are, a community space," Goldsmith said.

"We are collaborating; we are trying to come up with ideas that will benefit everybody's community," Director of Downtown Brookings Inc. Kristen Heismeyer said.

The downtown communities are also hopeful to make a state-wide coalition to help. South Dakota is one of eight states that currently does not have a state-supported downtown program.

A similar association dissolved in the 1980s, according to Heismeyer, who is hoping to once again partner with officials in Pierre.

"To see that state program come back, not only would it give us the resources and guidance to help improve smaller communities and our own, but it also might give us funding incentives," Heismeyer said. "And that is the one thing that we all talk about and stress while we are here is, how do we get funding."

The first summit was held in October and was hosted by downtown Sioux Falls. Communities in attendance included Mitchell, Brookings, Madison, Aberdeen, Pierre, Huron, Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

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