Jodi’s Journal: The 10-year tipping point

By Jodi Schwan

I have been so consumed lately with balancing the demands of a new business that I have not stepped back yet to appreciate and share something important:

I think things are about to get pretty exciting in Sioux Falls.

A number of years ago, a business leader made a powerful statement during a meeting we were having at City Hall.

Every 10 years, I recall him saying, we need to do something big in this community. Something that inspires and collectively energizes us. Something that pushes us to the next phase of growth.

It has been more than 10 years, now, but I’m going to say the last time this happened was in 2004 or 2005. That’s when the long-anticipated Phillips to the Falls project opened. We take it for granted now, but I believe it really was the catalyst for what downtown has become.

Once we connected the spine of the city’s core – Phillips Avenue – to its heart – Falls Park – big things started to happen. City leaders closed downtown to cruising and loitering, and businesses started staying open later. We saw outdoor dining and live music take root.

Fast-forward a couple of years and public-private partnerships like Cherapa Place and the CNA Surety building materialized. Business started investing because the community had taken the lead.

I think the Great Recession slowed down the 10-year milestone that the business leader told me needed to happen each decade. And I don’t count building the Denny Sanford Premier Center, either. As wonderful an addition as it has been, it really was about keeping up. We needed to replace an outdated facility. We had fallen well behind other communities in our entertainment offerings. So while it was a significant project and a necessary addition, it has not sparked private investment and community visioning the way we need to now.

Recently, six interested parties submitted qualifications to the city as potential partners in developing part of the downtown rail yard. Later this spring and summer, many likely will submit more formal proposals for pieces of the land.

I can tell you that the visions being formulated up and down the stretch of available property are the most exciting I’ve seen here in at least 10 years. They are forward-thinking ideas that will elevate downtown – and Sioux Falls as a whole – to a new level of development.

And they aren’t the only big ideas out there. In the past few months, I’ve seen and heard about plans for other areas of downtown, as well as core areas of the city and newer parts of town. In the coming weeks, we are going to announce significant new private investments.

The momentum I’m sensing is something I’m not sure I anticipated even six months ago, but it’s noticeable.

Our challenge, as a community, is to capture it. And that brings me back to this idea of the once-in-a-decade public investment.

We have the unique opportunity to redevelop the downtown rail yard – and don’t forget the River Greenway – into a place that will be a living symbol of our commitment to attracting workers and offering unmatched quality of life. That is going to take public and private leadership coming together to create developments that encourage additional investment and inspire community pride.

These moments are not inexpensive, quick or easy. That’s probably why most places are lucky if they happen every 10 years. But I can tell the tipping point is almost here.





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Jodi’s Journal: The 10-year tipping point

Every 10 years, a business leader told me, we need to do something big in this community. Something that inspires and collectively energizes us. Something that pushes us to the next phase of growth.

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