Downtown prepares for further development
By Amy Smolik
Marketing & Communications Manager
Downtown Sioux Falls
Retailers, restaurants and residents and everything in between are helping to drive development in downtown Sioux Falls. The recently-approved 2025 Downtown Plan aims for continued progress over the next decade in the heart of the city.
The 2025 plan replaces the 2015 plan, which was created in 2002. Since then, significant progress has been made in the city´s core. The 2015 Downtown Plan included a number of forward-thinking concepts like connecting to the Big Sioux River and Falls Park. Arts and culture and job growth were also key components.
Phillips to the Falls converted a contaminated brownfield into a connector from Falls Park to the central business district. This also helped stimulate private reinvestment and allowed Falls Park West to develop. The annual SculptureWalk continues to expand and bring more artists and visitors to the community. Removal of the River Ramp, the former parking structure that spanned the Big Sioux River, allowed for more river-oriented development. Implementing the first two phases of the River Greenway Master Plan have created recreation opportunities and connected downtown to the greenway trail system.
"Our No. 1 goal was to take advantage of our greenway. I think that´s created the most excitement," said former City Planner Steve Metli. "Improvements at Falls Park and the extension of Phillips to the Falls to bring people back to downtown have had an impact."
DOWNTOWN SIOUX FALLS
SHORT-TERM: 18 MONTHS
Main Avenue Road Diet
NEAR-TERM: 18 MONTHS-5 YEARS
Collaboration of multiple organizations
Mixed-use parking ramp
Falls Park West Master Plan
LONG-TERM: 5 YEARS AND BEYOND
Opportunities to aid in development
(tax abatement, tax increment financing)
Develop downtown gateways
Develop entertainment facilities for winter use
Implement recommendations from the
"Sioux Falls imagined" cultural plan and
Sioux Falls Sustainability Plan
Utilize Capital Improvements Plan to update and enhance downtown parks and plazas
Identify areas for residential improvement
Source: Downtown 2025 Plan
The vibrant downtown of today wasn´t always the case. Like other parts of the country in the 1970s and 1980s, Sioux Falls´ downtown struggled as retailers moved to malls that developed outside of downtown. Part of Phillips Avenue was converted to a pedestrian mall in the 1970s and by the 1980s, it was being torn out. The removal of the pedestrian mall took place at the same time as the creation of Main Street Sioux Falls (today known as Downtown Sioux Falls), an organization of businesses whose initial goal was to drive business back to downtown.
Metli credits the Downtown Sioux Falls (DTSF) organization for helping turn things around for the city´s core. "It helped turn the corner," Metli said, in reversing the trend of empty storefronts.
Today the organization also manages events, markets downtown and encourages development in a space that covers roughly 90 square city blocks.
Representatives from DTSF played an active role in the information gathering for the 2025 plan. Other participants included 300 stakeholders providing input via public meetings and 13 work groups and an online survey with more than 1,700 responses. In addition, a comprehensive market analysis, and a parking demand and site planning analysis were conducted. The result was 57 goals with 229 action items. The public was also invited to participate in community meetings and surveys. The final plan was created by merging the market assessment with the vision shared by the community. There were three clusters of programs and improvements to guide the goals and action steps: economy, environment and experience.
The key results? Currently, downtown retailers account for approximately 8 percent of the city´s total sales. The market analysis said there is the potential to create an additional 190,000 to 475,000 sq. ft. of retail or restaurant space. Based on projections, there is the potential to add another 1 million sq. ft. of office space in the next 20 years.
Across the city and state, incentives are available to entice businesses to locate or expand. DTSF recently created a Retail Incubator to support new retail concepts downtown.
DOWNTOWN SIOUX FALLS BOUNDARIES
Falls Park Drive to 14th Street and Minnesota Avenue to Franklin Avenue. The boundaries were not changed during the 2025 planning process.
THE CURRENT BOUNDARIES INCLUDE:
484 acres of land
101 acres of park area
1.5 miles of river greenway trail
90 city square blocks
Participants receive 18 months of subsidized rent and receive training in areas of merchandise management, marketing, human resources, financial management and customer services. In addition, they are paired with a successful downtown business in a business-to-business mentoring program. The retailer must remain in continuous operation within the downtown district for three years from the date of opening. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis; so far two businesses have been accepted into the incubator program: 605 Running Co. and A League of Your Own.
"One of our greatest assets is that independent, eclectic business that you can´t find anywhere else. With our retail incubator program, that will help foster that independent entrepreneur," said DTSF President Jason Dennison.
Sioux Falls is following national trends of increased housing downtown. The market assessment showed there is a potential to increase the number of housing units by 1,900 or more in the next two decades. More than 2,200 people live downtown.
Developing downtown housing opportunities has been a priority for Lloyd Companies for the last decade or so, said Vice President of Development Erica Beck. Lloyd is just one of several companies that have made investments in downtown. In that time period, the company has invested more than $100 million in downtown. Having a downtown urban living environment is important to many of the employees that companies are trying to attract to Sioux Falls, Beck said.
"By maintaining Sioux Falls´ focus on quality of life and investment into public infrastructure and recreational amenities, we´ll continue to see significant growth downtown from the private sector," Beck said. "Residential growth will lead to increased density, which translates into new retail, service-oriented commercial and entertainment options for our community."
DOWNTOWN SIOUX FALLS CORE VALUES
A downtown that is active throughout the day and evening, a neighborhood for urban-style living, and a center for innovation, job growth and economic development.
Safe and easy to get around, downtown is a collection of districts, attractions and recreational amenities that are seamlessly quilted together.
Socially and economically inclusive – providing a variety of job opportunities, housing types and price points.
Downtown is a mixed-use environment, offering walkable and bikeable access between jobs, housing, retail, dining, recreation and entertainment.
Downtown is welcoming to visitors and offers a variety of public spaces, events and activities that are accessible to all Sioux Falls residents.
A downtown that focuses on having the best environment, entertainment and development within.
DTSF has evolved along with the growing number of residents and now offers a residential membership and programs geared for downtown residents. Last summer, pet waste stations were installed throughout downtown to ensure downtown remains clean. More than 60 percent of downtown buildings are pet-friendly.
Downtown must remain a safe place, perception or not, Dennison said. DTSF recently created a Downtown Safety Committee whose members include business owners, elected officials and law enforcement to study downtown crime statistics and address challenges.
"It is so important for downtown to remain a safe destination. We know it´s a safe area, but if the perception is there that it´s not, we need to address it," Dennison said. "Safety, homelessness – that´s a community issue, not just a downtown issue. We need to have a community response to address that issue."
Another concept is a campaign called "Give Real Change" that will launch later this year. Parking meters will be able to accept change with donations going toward organizations that assist individuals in need with food, clothing and other resources.
Other national trends driving downtown progress include a changing workforce that favors compact urban environments for living and working. Shifts in mobility mean space that is bike and pedestrian friendly are important. Nationally, residential development in cities´ cores is huge and Sioux Falls benefits from its proximity to the river greenway and Falls Park. Downtown is a stop for recruiters as part of selling Sioux Falls – they want to show off the art, the culture, the commerce and the riverfront, Dennison said.
"Downtown is emerging as a critical economic development factor, just as important as our infrastructure, our parks and our school system," Dennison said.
People are also seeking a healthy environment – places to walk and bike with active recreation, as well as access to fresh food and community gardens. Downtown has a favorable walk score of 92 out of 100, compared to 34 out of 100 for the city as a whole. Downtown Sioux Falls´ score is competitive with many other cities in the region.
DOWNTOWN RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS
522 N. Main Ave., 34 units
City Center Apartments,
620 N. Main Ave., 44 units
Phillips Avenue Lofts,
601 N. Phillips Ave., 86 units
115 N. Dakota Ave., 40 units
233 S. Phillips Ave., 11 units
Frank Building (remodel),
322 E. 8th St., 18 units
S. Second Avenue and E. 14th Street,
230 S. Minnesota Ave., 52 units
The 2025 plan also identifies areas of redevelopment. These areas will also have an impact on continued economic development. Many of the sites serve as connectors within downtown or strengthen major downtown activity centers. Existing activity centers were highlighted as major assets in the market analysis. Falls Park is a critical natural amenity that is a key advantage in continued development of downtown residential and business. Phillips Avenue was referred to as the "spine to a historic mixed use area graced by a wonderful streetscape, SculptureWalk, and a diverse range of dining, retail and entertainment options." The River Greenway differentiates Sioux Falls from other cities and is a critical amenity to lure future residents and businesses. The East Bank area has emerged as a home to innovative retail and business concepts, with additional development potential from the adjacent rail yards. Suggestions also include incorporating action steps from other recent community plans, including the cultural plan approved in 2014.
DTSF and other involved parties have already started meeting to tackle some of the short-term and longer-term action steps laid out in the 2025 plan.
"We´re looking at a dog park, an ice skating rink and a bike-share program," Dennison said, naming just some of the ideas that came out of the plan. Rapid City has an ice rink and bike-share program and Dennison has been in contact with them to learn more about the logistics of how those ideas could be implemented in Sioux Falls.
"We have a great working relationship throughout all the organizations and entities that are dedicated to supporting growth in the city. Nobody is working on an island," Dennison said. "This is my downtown, this is your downtown, this is our downtown – it´s a point of civic pride."
The first plat of Sioux Falls filed at the office of Register of Deeds was on Aug. 9, 1871, by Josiah L. Phillips. The plat is described as "Map of Sioux Falls, Dakota Territory," later described as "J. L. Phillips Sioux Falls" to avoid confusion with subsequent plats. It consisted of nine blocks extending from Sixth to Ninth streets and from Phillips to Minnesota avenues.
||In 1890, construction started on a wood plank bridge on east 14th Street over the Big Sioux River, which accommodated the trolley car, the horse and wagon, and pedestrians. In 1930 and 1934, the Tenth Street bridge was replaced with the viaduct and named Rushmore Bridge.
||In 1907, the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce was created; at the time it was called the Sioux Falls Commercial Club.
||Made of beautiful quartzite stone, the Central Fire Station at Ninth Street and Minnesota Avenue was built in 1912.
||The Orpheum is the oldest existing theater in Sioux Falls. The theater was built for the Solari Bros. in 1913. The City of Sioux Falls purchased the Orpheum, Link, and King of Clubs Building in 2003. The City is restoring the facility to its full use and has named the entire facility The Orpheum Theater Center.
||Mayor George W. Burnside promoted the construction of the Sioux Falls Coliseum at Fifth Street and Main Avenue; it was constructed in 1917 and an annex was added in 1932.
||After much fundraising, the YMCA building was built in 1921. The YWCA (now EmBe) was constructed to the east of the YMCA facility in 1936.
||Under Mayor G. W. Burnside, Spitznagel and Schwarz designed City Hall, which opened its doors for business in 1936 at Ninth Street and Dakota Avenue. The cost of construction was $420,000.
||In 1966 the block on Second Avenue between 11th and 12th Street was cleared for the new post office building.
||In 1971 buildings were removed between Dakota and Main avenues north of Eighth Street for the location of the new public library and parking area. The pedestrian mall was introduced in 1973. It was then removed in three phases: 1984, 1986, and 1989.
||Thomas Fawick gave the Statue of David to the citizens in 1971. The dedication of the park where it was erected was held in October 1973. Today the park is known as Fawick Park.
||In 1975, with tax incentives for historic preservation, several historic buildings in the downtown area were renovated, including: Van Brunt building on Phillips Avenue north of Eighth Street, Albert Hotel on the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Phillips Avenue, Soo Hotel on southwest corner of Sixth Street and Main Avenue, Illinois Central Railroad Depot on East Eighth Street east of the river, and Kuehn Warehouse on northwest corner of Sixth Street and Phillips Avenue.
||The bike/pedestrian trail system was started in 1977. The trail was completed from downtown to Falls Park in the early 1980s.
||The Falls Park Visitor Information Center and five-story observation tower opened in 1999.
||In 2003, Phillips to the Falls was completed. It extended Phillips Avenue and downtown to Falls Park.
||Completed in 2007, Cherapa Place stands where the Zip Feed Mill, at the time South Dakota´s tallest building, was located. Situated on the east bank of the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls, this six-story office building with underground parking is designed with a two story base of local stone which appears to rise organically from the riverfront and a curved upper section oriented to maximize views of the river and Falls Park.
Source: City of Sioux Falls
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