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Dream Design’s President Hani Shafai Inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame

September 11, 2023

Hani Shafai, Founder and President of Dream Design International, was among ten individuals formally inducted into the esteemed South Dakota Hall of Fame during a ceremony held on September 8 and 9, 2023. Hani was recognized for his work in “Building a Sustainable Future.”

South Dakota Hall of Fame Class of 2023
South Dakota Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Since its establishment in 1974, the South Dakota Hall of Fame consistently strives to celebrate the inspiring narratives of individuals who have demonstrated unparalleled determination in pursuing their aspirations, regardless of the challenges. Inductees must have lived in South Dakota for part of their lives and possess qualities and achievements that have created a statewide impact.

Hani Shafai with his family at South Dakota Hall of Fame event.
Hani’s Family at the Grand Opening Ceremony

Hani now joins more than 700 distinguished South Dakotans who have left a mark on our great state across diverse fields, including business, education, and healthcare. Hani’s commitment to building a brighter future for South Dakota and beyond has genuinely earned him this well-deserved recognition.

Congratulations, Hani!

Hani is featured on the South Dakota Hall of Fame website.

Hani’s Story

Growing Up in Gaza

Hani Shafai is a Palestinian-born civil engineer and real estate developer who has made a significant impact on the Rapid City community and beyond. Born in Beit Lahia, a town nestled at the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, Hani’s earliest days were infused with the spirit of hard work. As the proud son of a family with deep agricultural roots, Hani was among eleven siblings, each contributing to their close-knit family.

Hani’s father, a devoted teacher, imparted knowledge and the values of diligence and perseverance. Alongside his father, Hani’s mother emerged as the central force driving their family’s agricultural endeavors. Fondly referred to as “the brain of the operation,” she wore multiple hats: a nurturing homemaker, a skilled farmer, and a provider of sustenance to their community.

Hani's Family in Gaza.
Hani’s family in Gaza

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Hani’s journey from Palestine to the Black Hills was ignited by a chance encounter that would later change the trajectory of his life. While Hani was pursuing engineering studies in the West Bank, math professor Jack Anderson, originally from South Dakota, introduced the idea of relocating. With Jack’s help and the closure of Birzeit University due to political unrest, Hani came to the U.S. and attended the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. There, he completed his undergraduate studies, advanced to graduate school, and even took on a teaching role at the university.

Hani when he was at South Dakota Mines
Hani at South Dakota Mines

Starting a Family in South Dakota

While in college, Hani met the love of his life, Barb. Soon thereafter, they were married.  A new chapter unfolded with the arrival of their charming twins, a son named Sharaf and a daughter named Yasmeen. Hani shifted his focus to supporting his growing family, opting to work from a home office while assisting with childcare. However, after a mere two months, Barb encouraged him to look for an office space, and it was there that Dream Design International was born.

Hani's family
Hani’s Family – Barb, Sharaf, and Yasmeen

Early Days of Dream Design International

Dream Design International was initially founded in 1998 as an engineering firm. During Dream Design’s formative years, the company played an essential role in the creation of monumental projects such as Red Rocks Estates, Omaha Plaza, and Rushmore Crossing. As the timeline unfolded, Hani’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to explore the realm of real estate development. Homestead Garden – an apartment complex that signaled the start of his vision, was his inaugural project.

Red Rocks Development in Rapid City
Red Rocks Development

Dream Design Today

In recent years, Dream Design expanded its services to include construction and property management to accompany its engineering and land development professionals. With these additional services, Dream Design is the leader in full-service real estate development in Western South Dakota.  Recently, Dream Design has developed the State of South Dakota One Stop Facility, the Rapid City VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, Shepherd Hills mixed-use community, Orchard Meadows, Sky Ridge, and many others. Over the years, Dream Design’s contribution to the community has grown to more than 2 million square feet of commercial space and over 6,000 residential units; all culminating in an impressive 1.5-billion-dollar addition to the region’s taxable value.

Liberty Center groundbreaking ceremony in Box Elder, South Dakota.
Liberty Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

Philanthropic Efforts

Hani combines his love for development with his family’s commitment to community service. He’s quick to give generously when the call comes from the heart. Hani explains, “My parents taught me that giving back is a Muslim tradition, but more importantly, it’s a way of life.”

Hani’s notable efforts include his dedication to addressing homelessness in the Black Hills region. His involvement has been pivotal in creating the OneHeart Transformation Campus and expanding services at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission. His philanthropic spirit extends to contributing generously to educational and healthcare causes.

Hani received his Honorary Doctorate in Public Service.
Hani receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from South Dakota Mines

Community Involvement

Hani serves his community extensively by  participating in various organizations, such as:

  • South Dakota Community Foundation
  • National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
  • South Dakota Board of Technical Professions
  • Children’s Home Society
  • Elevate Rapid City Executive Board
  • Sanford Health
  • Monument Health Foundation
  • Black Hills Center for American Indian Health
  • South Dakota Mines Foundation
  • South Dakota Engineering Society
  • Rapid City Drinking Water Task Force
  • Governor’s Committee for Vietnam Memorial
  • Dahl Fine Arts Center
  • Journey Museum
  • South Dakota Commission for National and Community Service

Through these professional and community organizations, he’s met many incredible people and worked with them to solve major issues. Hani remains humble and strives to do more for the community in the future.

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