Project Updates and Community Impact

Liberty Center, Plaza projects underway with groundbreaking ceremony

RCJ – Groundbreaking for the Liberty Center and Plaza in Box Elder could happen in as soon as 60 days, but state delegates and legislators gathered for the ceremony Friday morning.

Hani Shafai, Dream Design International president and CEO, said completion for the center is anticipated for July 2022.

“This project really is a great partnership between our federal, state, county, city and private sector coming together in support of our base mission, which is really the most critical thing that we are here for,” Shafai said. “It’s not really just the economic impact that the base has in our community, but their role in defending our country.”

Sen. John Thune, Rep. Dusty Johnson and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden were among the speakers at the ceremony.

Scott Landguth, Ellsworth Development Authority executive director, introduced Thune as being instrumental in saving Ellsworth Air Force Base when it was on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission list from 2005. He said once it was off the list, they immediately began working on the Powder River Training Range to make it the largest in the United States.

Thune said his office is continuing to work with the authority and the base to improve the area.

“You want to make sure Ellsworth is as well-positioned as possible to be an attractive place for the Air Force to continue to conduct missions,” he said. “Facilities like this, this announcement is huge because it’s another asset that makes this an attractive place for airmen to come and to serve.”

Thune said the center and plaza will enhance the quality of life for airmen and bring work opportunities for their families, too.

The 58,000-square-foot Liberty Center will be used by Ellsworth Air Force Base as a training facility for airmen. It will feature a one-eighth mile indoor track and have an infield for soccer and basketball courts that can be used by members of the community.

YMCA Executive Director Roger Gallimore said the organization will provide programming for the center, such as after-school activities for kids, strength training, cardiovascular fitness, group exercise and events for both children and the National Guard.

The center costs $12.6 million with $6.3 million funded by a Department of Defense grant and $3.2 million from the state.

The plaza will be 110 acres and include the center. It will feature 224 townhomes, 84 single family homes, and about 400,000 square feet of retail and office space with three levels of loft apartments. The total project will cost $110 million. Shafai said about $2 million will come from the Tax Increment Finance District, which the Pennington County Commission  approved in December 2020.

Shafai said infrastructure is a big concern for the plaza and they’re working on grading to prepare for that.

“We’re putting a lot of water and sewer lines, and the TIF is paying for portions of that, too,” he said.

Box Elder is looking for funds to help with infrastructure improvements. Nicole Schneider, city administrator and chief financial officer, said the city is pursuing all grant funding possible.

Sen. Jessica Castleberry, R-Rapid City, brought forward legislation during the session to include $5.8 million in appropriations to the authority to help with sewer infrastructure. It was voted down.

President Joe Biden announced the American Job Plan, which would include highways, bridges, transit systems, clean drinking water and jobs. Sen. Thune said Friday that the plan doesn’t include enough specifics.

“This is such an all-encompassing thing,” he said. “I think a truly [specific] infrastructure bill would be something I would support. That could include highways, bridges, roads, broadband… [things] I think are examples of infrastructure… water, sewer, things that you do to get ready for projects like this.”

Copyright 2021. Published by Rapid City Journal April 9, 2021.


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