Spearfish—South Dakota's next boom town?

South Dakota State Roundup

Published April 1, 1995  | April 1995 issue

Something is happening in Spearfish. Starter homes are at a premium, 130 acres may turn into a luxury home development, and empty apartments are non-existent.

Spearfish, a town of 8,000 in the Black Hills, 15 miles from the tourist hamlet of Deadwood, is experiencing a housing crunch now that few expect will end soon. "We'll never catch up with the expansion," says Terry Sheahan, Pioneer Bank and Trust vice president.

Currently, Pioneer Bank is working with two contractors who are building 10 houses primarily for first-time home buyers. The bank's initiative is modeled after a state program that offers construction loan guarantees to contractors building medium-priced homes for first- time buyers and lower interest rate loans to those buyers.

In addition to the moderately priced homes going up, a number of luxury homes are planned by two developers who purchased former Homestake Mining land at the edge of Spearfish. Those same developers, according to Sheahan, are also building two apartment buildings in Spearfish. "You can't find a place to rent," Sheahan says, despite about 15 units built over the last two years.

Some of the growth is caused by the expansion and popularity of nearby Deadwood as a tourist and gambling center. But Sheahan says it's more than Deadwood's success. "The area seems to have been discovered," he says. "We have someone in here from California once a week" looking for information.

According to David Summer, executive director of the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, "the old real estate slogan 'location, location, location' fits Spearfish to a tee." While the natural amenities of the Black Hills are a tourist draw, Summer says it's also becoming a mecca for retirees. A growing student population at Black Hills State University and the town's location on a major interstate are other reasons why people are drawn to the area, Summer adds.

What will likely have the greatest impact on Spearfish over the next few years, though, is development of the large destination resort in Deadwood owned by actor Kevin Costner and his brother, Dan. Just under way, that project alone will bring about 1,000 construction workers to the area. Deadwood, surrounded by mountains, has little room for expansion, while Spearfish, located in a valley, has room to grow, Sheahan says.

In addition to growth in tourism and mining, Sheahan says Spearfish "has businesses now that we've never had. ... We'll look back at this time and say 'that's when the boom began.'"

Kathy Cobb