Project Updates and Community Impact

The “Elon Musk of South Dakota” – How Hani Has Transformed Rapid City’s Infrastructure

Recently, Dream Design founder Hani Shafai was interviewed by Stephen Starr of The National and featured in an article titled Arabs in the Wild West: inside the small but successful Middle Eastern community living in the Dakotas.

In the article, Starr shares a lot about our beloved community of Rapid City and how Hani, who hails from a small village in the Gaza Strip, has had a massive impact in transforming the local landscape.

In the 30 years since Hani came to the Hills, Hani’s had a hand in a substantial portion of the developments around town and just about anywhere you turn, you’ll see a project that Hani had a part in.

Though he wasn’t born here, he’s given his heart and soul to taking this town and turning it into a thriving and vibrant community and has made significant contributions in helping to stabilize the economy, offer better paying, higher quality jobs, and making the city safer and more beautiful to boot.

Read an excerpt from the article below or read the full article here.

Shafai hails from Beit Lahia, a town close to the Israeli border, and its residents have been subjected to shelling and air strikes over the years. He ended up in Rapid City after encountering a teacher from South Dakota who took a shine to him while he studied engineering at Birzeit University in Ramallah. He then went to study at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, but the move wasn’t easy at first, and he had mixed emotions about staying in Rapid City. “I actually wanted to go back home after graduating,” he admits. “But it was difficult because of the political situation. All of my family are still in Gaza.”


Yet, within a decade of ­gaining his degree, Shafai, having worked for a time in Chicago and Los Angeles, found himself back in Rapid City, consulting and teaching at a university, before being hired as a city engineer. In 1998, he branched out on his own, starting a business called Dream Design International. Fast forward to today, and under Shafai, who was once referred to as the “Elon Musk of South Dakota”, the company has almost single-handedly transformed Rapid City’s infrastructure, helping to turn the once moribund town into a thriving outdoor recreation destination. The company has gone on to build 6,000 housing units, and develop nearly 300,000 square metres of commercial property.


“We probably do about 60 per cent of the land development in the area today,” Shafai explains. “We saw a need. One of our first projects was an apartment complex. Back then, there were no apartments being built. The rents were really high, so we built 152 units.” In the years since, Rapid City has transformed from a tourist-based regional town, dependent on people visiting Mount Rushmore and nearby parks, into a diversified local economy. 

Check out the gallery below for a look at some of Hani’s biggest projects over the years. As you can see from the Community Impact Map, you’ll see the Dream Design green ALL over town! 

Though he has several new developments throughout Rapid City (over 1000 acres in development right now), many who live in Rapid or have come to visit will recognize the notable projects like Rushmore Crossing, Rocker Square, Red Rock Estates, and Homestead Gardens. 

And he’s just getting started! We’re having so much fun being fully committed to development and bringing even more services and improvements to Rapid City. 

Keep following the blog to hear updates on all these projects and be the first to be in the know on Rapid City’s biggest changes and developments.

#hanishafai #buildingrapidcity | #dreamdesign #dreambig



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Dream Design International, Inc.
18 East Kansas City St., Suite 3
Rapid City, SD 57701
(605) 348-0538