Project Updates and Community Impact

What does Dream Design do?

At Dream Design, we get asked a lot about what it is we really do. Everyone of course wants to know what buildings are coming into a new development, which tenants are moving into a building that’s under construction, and what on earth are we planning to do with the old Kmart.

But, bringing tenants into these properties is one of the very last stages of our projects.

Usually, there have been several months – if not years of work and planning and preparation to allow for those new tenants to open up shop.

As developers, our main job is to take a giant piece of land or an old commercial project and work to fit all the puzzle pieces together to bring it back to life. We have to work to find the right mix of services and tenants to help a property thrive and to meet the community’s greatest short term and long term needs.

These plans and projects are evolving every day as some parts of the puzzle move forward and various circumstances cause others to adapt and change.

Here’s a quick look at what goes into the Dream Design process – and how we take a project from start to finish:

Land Acquisition: Perhaps the most important element of the Dream Design process is Land Acquisition. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times – the biggest contributor of value in real estate is location, location, location.

Finding the best spot for incoming projects sets us up for years of continued success – but finding these ideal locations takes a whole lot of vision and risk, something DDI founder Hani Shafai has become a bit of a master at. He’s especially gifted at seeing a rundown property, empty field, or undeveloped farmland and recognizing a bigger vision. Where so many others see too much of a headache, too many obstacles, or a lost cause, Hani can see a thriving business hub, a bustling neighborhood, or a perfect home for services and schools.


Master Planning: Once we’ve found that piece of land, we get to work dreaming about what it could become. We work (and re-work, and re-work) endless versions of layouts and master plans – refining our designs to establish the best use for each development. As we gain more clarity and receive feedback from potential clients, community organizations, and government entities, we begin to put the pieces together, fitting the puzzle to match the planned density, zoning, and geographical constraints of the property.

Market Studies: Looking at many of our master plans, you’ll see different colors, sizes, and labels on sections of land, perhaps noting the zoning, type of use, and acreage for each portion. Often times, we’ll see a need in the market that may require a bit more study and detail to fit those uses. Perhaps we’ll see a need or a gap in that part of town for a certain type of housing, or services like schools or grocery. To help bring in larger chains, obtain certain types of grants or funding, or attract additional partners, a market study may be completed to present the project and the community’s need to those involved. Market studies will usually include demographic information for the community at large and the breakdown of income levels, age groups, types of careers, family makeup, travel patterns, etc. of the individuals in the area. Market studies can also include appraisal data for nearby structures, statistics on similar services nearby, and additional information like traffic counts, zoning types, local development incentives, and relevant planning codes and ordinances.

Demolition: Occasionally a property we acquire has some major work to be done to get us to a blank slate. Sometimes, there are existing buildings that are simply beyond repair or services that would take so much more input to fix than they’d ever again be worth. Two recent projects required demolition for just these same reasons: our Kansas City Street mixed use project and the south corner of our Buffalo Crossing development. The Kansas City Street project housed a few old, dilapidated cabins with rotting floors and disturbed asbestos. The Buffalo Crossing development was the home of the old Waterslides – a community treasure that unfortunately had seen the end of its usable (and renovatable) life. In both cases, taking those rundown services out and simply starting over, was the best, most workable option for moving the area forward.

Land Survey: Our next step toward planning a big project is to obtain a survey from a Registered Land Surveyor (RLS) and survey technicians who examine the boundaries of the property, review title work to reveal any easements or encumbrances, and prepare documents that will get recorded at the Courthouse to serve as official notice to the public. Improvements to the property including location of underground utilities may also be noted. The survey serves as verification for the size, use, and ownership of a property to ensure that a property is free to be improved and developed.

Platting and Permitting: There are a number of regulations and ordinances that affect the ability to develop projects within City limits. There are established criteria for the size of home lots, the uses permitted within certain neighborhoods, the specifics on how to construct subdivisions and roads, and of course, building codes to ensure that new structures comply with safety standards necessary to protect the public. Once a property has been surveyed and we have determined the incoming tenants for a project, we start the process to “plat” the property and get any necessary permits for construction. Platting the property is the act of taking a larger chunk of land and dividing it out into smaller sections. The plat will create a completely new parcel of land that is unique and sellable and would be the right choice if a certain tenant or business wishes to buy their property outright. Once any platting is complete and we’re ready to begin, we’ll get grading permits, erosion control permits, air quality permits, footing and foundation permits, and building permits and get to work.

Civil Engineering: Another major behind the scenes element of planning a new project is the work of civil engineering and design. The civil engineering crew will take data obtained from the surveyors and work with the topography of the property, examine any water sources, prepare for drainage and runoff, outline streets and roads, determine the best location for utility lines, water and sewer lines, and develop plans for construction of these roads and utility systems. Though the work of a Civil Engineer may not be the most glamorous, it is an essential process to allow us to build a solid foundation and ensure that a property can function at its highest – and safest – capacity.

Grading, Excavation, & Utilities: Once the plans have been stamped and approved by all appropriate parties: a professional engineer, the City, and the property owner, heavy construction crews are drafted to do the work of developing and preparing the land so it’s ready to build upon. Our crews have even been known to remove over 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt to level out a property to fit its intended use!! This is where all of the previous work becomes real and concrete, as the grading and utility crews are closely following the plans developed by the civil engineer, which were informed by the land survey, and are designed to match the intended platting and master plan for the property. During this phase, sewer systems and city utilities are installed and roads and curbs are laid establishing the layout for the development and ensuring access to each parcel for all incoming parties.

Residential & Commercial ConstructionOnce the grading and utility crews have done their part, we then have a beautiful blank slate for new businesses and homeowners to build on. The ground is leveled and set for any potential builder and tenant to start working with their architect and general contractor to plan their commercial or residential project with ease. For the Dream Design team, it will depend on how that puzzle has pieced together as to how much involvement we’ll have with this process. By this stage, we may have already sold the lot to a business or development group who will hire their own crews to do all the building and design work. Or, we may be working hand in hand with the business owner themselves to either build the building for them – handling all the bidding, construction coordination, and financial details of the process, so they can continue to do what they do best. We then may lease the building to the business owner or sell the completed project to their team. On the residential side, we too may sell a handful of lots in a development directly to a builder, or may work individually with homeowners to find the right spot. We have also built – and redeveloped – multi-family residential projects like the Homestead Garden Apartments, the College Station Apartments, and the incoming Kansas City Street Lofts.

Property Management: If the Dream Design team remains the owner of a commercial or residential complex, we will handle all of the property management aspects of the facility including finding the right tenants for a commercial project, or managing all of the potential renters in an apartment complex. Our team will then of course handle all of the day to day details that may come with that such as setting up service contracts with vendors, addressing all billing and accounting procedures for the property, and continuing to market the property to additional tenants if needed. Our goal at this stage is to help the property thrive and ensure that the tenants are well taken care of without distraction.

Maintenance: An essential aspect of property management is the continued maintenance and upkeep of our facilities. We have an incredibly hard working crew who faithfully maintains our properties and rushes to address any issues as soon as possible. They are there before anyone else early in the morning and answer on call on the weekends if anything happens. In our frigid South Dakota winters, they are also in charge of keeping our sidewalks and parking lots cleared for the businesses who lease from us and they endure the cold and wind to help keep everyone safe.

Leasing & Sales: The cycle for all of these steps continues as we work with new tenants coming in and redevelop a building to suit their needs. We also work closely with our legal team to draft leases addressing items such as the office build out, maintenance agreements, and length of the lease. We also work to draft purchase agreements and contracts for tenants looking to acquire the building they’ve been leasing or outside entities looking to procure an investment property in town. No matter what a business needs, we do what we can to work with their unique financial situation, time constraints, and overall vision to try to work out the best plan for getting them up and running.

“A Helping Hand in Our Community’s Growth”

All of these elements make up the day to day of what it is we truly do. Many of us are drawn to this work because we love a good challenge, we love to tackle that puzzle, and we love to strive to solve the problems that come with trying to bring so many different people, services, entities, and regulations together to find the right fit. There is NEVER a dull moment for a development team and we get curveballs every day that need worked through and addressed to continue to move so many different projects and timelines forward.

It’s the ultimate game in coordination and patience as we take these projects from start to finish but we get to meet the absolute best people along the way, get to engage in so many different facets of our community, and get to play a small part in continuing to make our community great.

#developingabetterworld #lovewhatwedo  |  #dreamdesign #dreambig



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