City, BH Mining Museum eye plans for new buildings

The Black Hills Mining Museum may move and a new facility could be built in its place.

Pioneer photo by Wendy Pitlick

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LEAD — A new library, commercial, residential and parking complex could be in Lead’s future, along with a new building for the Black Hills Mining Museum.

At 7 p.m., Dec. 14, the Black Hills Mining Museum will host a public meeting at the Historic Homestake Opera House to discuss future plans and to generate community support for a new facility that could be built at Gold Run Park. While the museum has wanted a new building for many years, New Facility Coordinator Gordon Phillips said the time seems right. Developers at Dream Design have approached the city of Lead about tearing down the library and Black Hills Mining Museum building, and constructing a new facility in its place. But doing that would force the museum to move into new digs.

In addition to the public meeting, an open house will be held from 3-6:30 p.m. Dec. 14, to give the public an opportunity to see the museum and visit with staff. There are two ideas for two separate buildings, but each is connected with the other, and Phillips said understanding the overall concept is key to generating public support.

“The biggest question is going to be ‘what is going to happen to that hole you guys leave downtown,’” Phillips said about the idea of constructing a new museum building. “We’re still in initial talks, ideas and concepts. The mining museum is very important to the people in the community, and it should be. What happens here matters.”

But, Phillips said relating to the early stages of the new city building, public support hinges on knowing that the plan is positive for both the mining museum and the library.

“If there is a perception amongst the public that even though this is a good project, but it will result negatively on the mining museum, public support would not be as strong,” he said.

The Dream Design plan calls for demolishing the current library building. In its place the company would build a two-level parking garage with a total of 114 spaces on the lower levels. The main level will include a new library that is the same size as the current facility but that is all on one level, and three commercial office spaces. Above the public space there would be approximately two floors of 28 residential apartments.

“This dictates that we move,” Phillips said of the plans that are interconnected with the Black Hills Mining Museum’s desire to build a new facility. “Because if we stay, that can’t happen. This is such a huge win for the city of Lead to get a new library, great parking and all of that. There are a lot of great things for the whole community there.”

Phillips said the Black Hills Mining Museum has been bursting at the seams and in need of a new building for many years. In 2001, board members had a plan to re-develop the museum, but uncertainties with Homestake’s pending closure halted any fundraising efforts. Now, in its 35th year of operation, Phillips said the board agrees that it’s time to explore new possibilities.

“We’re doing very well and achieved a lot of things,” he said. “We’re not lacking because we’re not a great museum. We’re lacking because we don’t have a good museum building. We’ve lost our parking structure and our ability to have busses, RV traffic and travel trailers. All of that right now passes us by, which means we’re losing revenue. We have ADA issues in our building in getting people up and down, and an elevator is very expensive.”

Recently, Phillips said Todd Deux of Homestake proposed the mining museum use of Gold Run Park as a site for a new facility.

“We could build a brand-new building there, where the parking lot has 50 striped spots, is handicapped accessible, and has the ability for busses, travel trailers and RV traffic,” Phillips said. “It’s still right on Main Street, and we wouldn’t be hidden from traffic. It would be on the highway and the first thing people would see coming up Highway 85. So it would give us great visibility. Also, being able to build a museum around what is inside the building is a great plus.”

Additionally, Phillips said his friend, architect Tim Palone, of Oklahoma, offered to donate preliminary drawings of what a new facility could look like, in exchange for a shot at finalizing the plans when the mining museum board is ready to move forward. Those drawings will be available for viewing at the public meeting, Dec. 14.  

Mayor Ron Everett said the first major hurdle for both projects is finding the money. The new library building is estimated to cost between $10 million to $12 million. For the city’s end there are possibilities, including funding through a tax incremental finance district that uses increased property tax dollars to retire the debt on a developed property.

“I think that we’re in the stage of trying to find the money,” Everett said. “The first big hurdle is the mining museum finding grants or donors. There are a lot of those things that we are moving forward with this new concept in mind, and the outcome would depend on how much money and if we can get all the things lined up.”

It’s a process that could take awhile, Everett said, since fundraising and planning takes time.

“This is one of those stages that creates a lot of excitement, but I caution people to remain positive about it as we work through the finer points, then the whole plan will fall into place,” he said. “These projects need to be announced and laid out there. At these early stages, it’s a little dangerous because there will be the doubters who say ‘you’ll never get that done. It’s a very positive thing. We want to move forward and see what we can do. Maybe the mining museum is not a $10 million project, but we just don’t know. But we have to go forward and find out the real answer.”

Overall, Everett said he is very excited about the possibilities that have been presented for the library building, and he looks forward to working to advance the ideas.

“It’s very, very exciting,” he said. “I think everybody just needs to be positive and work through all the details, and eventually we will have a great product.”

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