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Empty Nesters Flock To Downtown

January 9, 2013, 10:08 PM by Angela Kennecke

Empty Nesters Flock To Downtown

Some couples in their 50's and 60's are battling back from "empty nest syndrome" by making a major lifestyle change. They're leaving the homes where they raised their kids in and flocking to downtown Sioux Falls.

Jaye and Rick Anderson raised four children and lived in a 3500 square foot house in the southern part of Sioux Falls until four months ago. 

"We pretty much lived on the main floor. We never went downstairs unless our kids came home and we thought really, is this what we want to do?  It's time to scale back get rid of stuff and cleanse," Jaye said.

And scale back they did - to a 936 square foot loft in Shriver's Square in downtown Sioux Falls.

"We were downtown all the time. We felt like our social life was downtown. It's hopping down here and we're people that like new things and go, go; that's why we decided to come here," Jaye said.

"People always ask me how I like downtown. I like downtown and Jaye loves downtown; therefore I love downtown," Rick said.

Jaye also works at 8th and Railroad at Josephine's floral and since making the move downtown, hardly ever uses her car. 

The Anderson's aren't the only empty nesters to fly away from suburbia. 

"We enjoy the nightlife downtown, the proximity to the music; it's a whole different lifestyle. You meet a whole new set of friends. You keep your old friends, but meet a whole group of new people living downtown," Jay Zea said. 

Jay and Lian Zea's apartment in the Carpenter building is actually their "second" downsize move. They left a town home for this downtown location four years ago.

"The majority of people who live in this building are middle aged; retired or empty nesters," Jay said.

Of course there are a few things about home ownership and all that goes along with it that the couple missed at first. For Lian, it was gardening.

"Eventually I don't care about that any more," Lian said.

The Andersons are still adjusting to the change.

"My outdoor deck; I miss that a lot. Other than that, I have to say, nothing," Jaye said.

"Oh, I miss my garage because I like to do projects, at ten or eleven o'clock at night," Rick said. "When I couldn't sleep, I'd go into the garage and work on a project. The option isn't available here, when you're downtown."

Also, getting groceries isn't as easy as it used to be.

"She goes to the grocery store on Sundays because there's parking, but you have to haul your groceries. There's an elevator here, but it's not as convenient as coming in from your garage directly into your kitchen. There are a few disadvantages in that respect," Jay said.

And then there are things they don't miss.

"We no longer own a snow blower or a lawn mower. When it snows I get to watch it snow, rather than clean the snow," Rick said.

When empty nesters fly downtown they typically give up home ownership. About 90 percent of the apartments and lofts in downtown Sioux Falls are rentals and there's usually a waiting list to get in. 

"Some people don't want to own any more. Other people want to build that equity and have that feeling of home ownership and that's great. Downtown will offer both in the next few years," Jay said.

While the Zeas two daughters left the nest, they have now returned; only this time to downtown. One works and lives across the street, while the other owns a business around the corner.

"It's very fun. It's nice they want to be near us. We have a lot of fun with them," Lian said.

For these empty-nesters now in their 50's and 60's, being in the middle of all the downtown action is almost like living their 20's all over again.

"Here's my word for this downtown, it's like the Cheer's; you can go where everyone knows your name. Pretty much I know all the owners of all the businesses. You can go into bars or restaurants and they know your name. I know their names. It feels very small town, very homey and welcoming," Lian said. 

"We are the first one out of our age group of friends who have done anything like this. They all think we're probably crazy, I don't know. But we've loved it," Jaye said.

The Andersons say if they make any changes to their living situation in the future, it will just be to find a "bigger" place to live downtown to make room for when future grandchildren come to visit.

"There's always a time in your life to do certain things and this is a good time for us to make the change and re-evaluate where we are at. It's been a good change for us," Rick said.

And good for keeping downtown a thriving place to not only work and play, but also live. 

Lloyd companies is working to meet the demand for downtown loft-style apartments. Thirty loft apartments are opening in 60 days and Lloyd will break ground on another 90 rental units for the Phillips Avenue lofts this spring. Another builder is also putting up lofts on the west side of city hall.

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