Downtown’s Railyard Flats drawing national interest with unique construction style 

Nov. 10, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by Journey Group. 

Barely a week goes by that Billy Pollema doesn’t get contacted about a first-of-its-kind project under construction in downtown Sioux Falls.

“We’re one of the first that’s doing something like this, and it shows,” said Pollema, Journey Construction’s project manager for Railyard Flats, the new mixed-use building under construction on downtown’s redeveloped rail yard site.

“People are calling.”

People are calling building co-owner Anne Haber too. Except they’re more interested in living in the building, which will have 41 lofts, from studios to three-bedroom units.

“We are meeting with prospective tenants, we’re doing tours, we’re discussing space plans to better understand their needs, and our hope is that these become long-term relationships with renters who will enjoy a boutique experience,” she said.

“I think as the building begins to take shape, it’s becoming clear what an incredibly unique opportunity it will be to live here.”

Located on East Eighth Street, Railyard Flats is the first laminated mass-timber structure in the state.

“We first were introduced to this style of construction by Co-op Architecture,” Haber said.

“They understood our desire for quality, sustainable construction and that we were willing to lead and try new things in town, much as we did when we built Cherapa Place. And the more we discovered, from the aesthetics to the environmental qualities, the more we realized this was the direction we wanted to go.”

The majority of the 78,000-square-foot building is mass-timber laminated columns, beams and plank flooring.

“It’s modern, but it harkens back to the old warehouse style of construction,” co-owner Jeff Scherschligt said. “It was the city’s requirement, and our desire, that we respect the historic nature of the site, and these materials were a way to do that.”

The team came together right away to make the vision a reality: designer Co-op Architecture, general contractor Journey Construction, subcontractor and building partner Howe Inc. and StructureCraft Builders LLC, out of British Columbia.

“StructureCraft are the engineers who help put mass-timber buildings like this together. They’re able to turn the design into what you need in terms of materials, and their expertise has been extremely valuable,” Haber said.

From there, Journey coordinated and executed the building process.

“We’ve been building with steel and concrete in this area for a long, long time and standard, conventionally framed wood apartments, but this is far from that,” Pollema said.

“So there have been a lot of details to coordinate in this type of mass-timber project that are unique, but it’s also been good. The construction itself is now going really well.”

The posts and beams are European spruce sourced from Austria, and the dowel laminated flooring is a blend of three woods from British Columbia.

“They started fabrication in Austria probably eight weeks ago, and then they go by train to Germany and across the ocean in shipping containers,” Pollema said.

“But they’ve arrived on site, and we’re now setting those columns and beams, which will take a few weeks. It’s kind of like setting structural steel, but different. They fit together almost like a puzzle.”

Scherschligt compares it to building with classic Lincoln Logs.

“Once you understand it, the contractors tell me it goes together rapidly and efficiently,” he said. “From our standpoint, it’s gone very smoothly, and we’re on track.”

The unique nature of the project is drawing attention industrywide, with Journey receiving calls from other builders with clients interested in similar work.

“I’ve been contacted by different areas of the country because this dowel laminated timber system is fairly new,” Pollema said. “It’s shown up within the last five years in the U.S., so there’s a lot of interest in how it’s going for us.”

The team will offer a virtual tour of the project this week during a virtual symposium on wood design organized by WoodWorks – Wood Products Council.

Railyard Flats will be featured Thursday in a session on trends in multifamily design that also includes projects from California, Texas and Washington. To learn more and sign up to watch, click here.

“I think this recognition speaks to the team we’ve put together, which has been a wonderful working group,” Haber said. “We got everyone together early on, and we stay in contact, and that’s going to create a better product, likely on budget, and we’re making good, quality decisions.”

The luxurious lofts at Railyard Flats will include sophisticated, modern finishes. Extras include oversized closets, a mudroom and drop-zone space and individual rooftop decks.

“They are going to be beautiful and definitely pull in the modern, Scandinavian design influence,” Haber said. “The mass timber really gives the space a warmth like nothing else, plus it’s an excellent choice for someone who is environmentally conscious and appreciates incredible structure and design standards.”

The building also includes 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the main level, which has tenant commitments.

A shared courtyard will include seating and local art, while the property easily connects to the riverfront recreation trail. Residents also will be offered underground parking and access to an indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge.

The project is on track to be ready by mid-2021.

“We’re hitting all the milestone dates,” Pollema said. “As soon as we get through the next key milestone of getting the permanent roof on, we’ll be well on our way to completion.”

The process has been smooth and even enjoyable, Scherschligt and Haber said.

“I think Journey’s professionalism is just unmatched,” Haber said. “We’ve always been very impressed.”

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Downtown’s Railyard Flats drawing national interest with unique construction style 

“We’re one of the first that’s doing something like this, and it shows.” Railyard Flats is drawing national interest with its unique approach to construction.

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