Jodi’s Journal: Downtown’s big wins can create more momentum

By Jodi Schwan

This has been a big week for downtown Sioux Falls.

It’s hard to understate the significance of adding a place for everyday items, prescriptions and medical care right in the heart of Phillips Avenue.

By providing these products and services, Lewis Drug and Sanford Health are going to give people one more big reason to consider living downtown, and they’re signaling to other businesses that downtown has achieved enough critical mass to support them.

Lewis Drug, Sanford Health and PAve are partnering on a new building at 10th Street and Phillips Avenue.

This week brings another chance to deliver big for downtown as the City Council considers tax increment financing for the proposed apartment, retail and office complex for a block of North Main and Phillips avenues.

I know some elected leaders and citizens philosophically oppose this funding approach regardless of the project. But for everyone else who is open to it – which includes the leadership of every major downtown area in the country – there is no better example, for me, of how it can be used than this project.

For full disclosure, the applicant, Lloyd Companies, is one of the sponsors of our business.

However, I would be equally supportive of any company proposing the same project and asking for the same financial consideration. That property today is a contaminated (because of how the city used it previously), under-utilized piece of land.

Compared to other cities and states, our elected leaders have limited economic development tools available to them.  I hope they use what they do have to allow this area to be redeveloped into something that will bring a new level of vibrancy to the north end of downtown.

The coming months and years are going to bring many additional opportunities for the public and private sectors to capture the momentum that continues to build downtown.

I’m excited to see a new parking ramp move forward east of the future Lewis and Sanford, bringing needed infrastructure along with new opportunities for development.

I’m a big believer in the concepts being formulated for portions of the former railyard property.

I’m highly encouraged by the demand for owner-occupied residential downtown, as shown by the strong response to the first condominium projects.

Because of those initial public investments — building a ramp, relocating the railroad, using TIF with a condo project — it’s relatively easy for me to see where and how the private sector is planning to invest next. What’s less clear, though, and what needs to be brought to the forefront, is where our next public investment ought to be.

Downtown Sioux Falls

The public sector needs to lead when market conditions aren’t yet there for the private sector. Elected leadership needs to set a vision and make the financial commitments to create a foundation that allows for targeted development or redevelopment to occur.

Here are some ways I think this should happen.

  1. Pull the city master plan for the Weber Avenue corridor off the shelf and get started on encouraging housing and work space that will be affordable for new professionals, creative workers and even young families. We need to keep the downtown area accessible for these demographics and take advantage of nearby investment already occurring along and near Weber Avenue.
  2. Be the bridge between downtown and its neighbors to the south. Create a corridor plan for 14th Street that encourages commercial redevelopment to the north and neighborhood improvements to the south. The All Saints area is a tremendous example of neighborhood engagement. Help this area access the resources they need to continue to attract new residents and use it as an example for other neighborhoods near downtown.
  3. Fund the next phase of the downtown river greenway master plan. Fawick Park originally was planned to include a performance space and pedestrian bridge. I’m sharing the vision for that and the enhanced area north of it below. Equally important, finishing this first phase would position us to tackle the second one. That includes enhanced riverfront parkland south of 14th Street for water recreation and events and will further strengthen the nearby neighborhoods.

I know it probably seems like there’s already a lot happening downtown, public and private – and there is. But changes like the ones I’m calling for take many years and many millions, so it’s never too soon to begin planning.

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Jodi’s Journal: Downtown’s big wins can create more momentum

This has been a big week for downtown. Here’s how we can keep the momentum going.

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