SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Developers warn time is running out to turn downtown Sioux Falls into a bigger money-maker.
In 2005, the Department of Transportation set aside $40 million for Sioux Falls to move a railroad switch yard from downtown to make room for lucrative developments.
Back in its industrial days, downtown Sioux Falls was the logical place for a railroad switch yard.
"Obviously the world has changed. We've evolved to more service type things. We're not down here loading the rails full of goods like we used to in the olden days," Managing Partner of Cherapa Place Jeff Scherschligt said.
The switch yard is in the way of prime land for a $30 million addition to Cherapa Place. Cherapa 2 would go right next to the current space, and bring more apartments, office space and a lot more parking spots. He admits he and other developers could make a lot of cash, but also bring in new blood from the edges of town.
"The next generation, the young people like you are saying, 'hey! I don't want to live out there. I want to live downtown where there's action," Scherschligt said.
The reason for his urgency is the $40 million has dwindled to around $35 million because the government took it back. For the first time, the government could take the rest of money back if it appears it will not be used, and funnel it back into the budget.
"It's a very real threat and causes us to say, 'no matter how much it costs, if we don't have the $35 million, it might be out of our reach.' My guess is it will cost more than $35 million," Schershligt said.
The director of Sioux Falls Public Works,Mark Cotter, said it is too soon to confirm if the project would cost more or less than the money set aside. Scherschligt believes grabbing $35 million is better than at grabbing nothing, and he believes city officials are on the right track.
"It's been a key priority for the city for a number of years. We're doing our due diligence so we can ultimately answer the questions and move forward," Cotter said.
Officials have been in the process of answering these questions in the seven years since the money was given to Sioux Falls. Cotter said this has been in the works for years, but is not as simple as just picking it up and re-locating.
"One of the key factors to use federal dollars is we have to go through an environmental assessment," Cotter said.
City Officials also have to work with the department of transportation and the BNSF, which owns the yard, to find a site that works, but does not hurt railroad operations. Scherschligt is very confident in our city leaders.
"So now what we have to do is get everybody's shoulder behind this and assist the city because for us to sit there and just say, 'Hey, city. Get this done,' isn't that simple," Scherschligt said.
City officials will have a public meeting on February 27 at the Orpheum from 6 to 8 pm.
• City of Sioux Falls Railroad Relocation Project
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