CROOKS, S.D. (KELO) — When the expected Amazon facility comes to South Dakota, the city of Crooks will be ready.
Although not officially confirmed by Sioux Falls and Sioux Falls Development Foundation officials, KELOLAND News confirmed with construction officials earlier this summer that Amazon plans to build a distribution warehouse in the Sioux Falls Development Foundation Park in northern Sioux Falls.
Foundation Park is about two miles from the city of Crooks.
The Crooks Housing and Redevelopment Commission (CHRC) will be closing a deal on 35 acres of land it plans to use for residential development, said Mike Harstad, the chairman and commissioner of the CHRC. In 2016, the CHRC took over the last 15 acres of a housing development that stalled during the Great Recession. 39 of 54 lots in the15-acre Sunset Acres development have been sold.
“The school (Tri Valley) in Crooks or Amazon, none of that was on our radar,” Harstad said of the roughly four-year focus on housing development.
Now, Harstad said, Crooks is well positioned for future growth, including growth sparked by development within the nearby Foundation Park.
With the Sunset Addition and planned new housing development, “it would be difficult for anyone to build a house closer (to Foundation Park),” Harstad said. “I think if Amazon goes through, we will be in an excellent position (to attract new residents).”
Taking the opportunity
Harstad said a private developer wanted to sell his remaining acres after housing construction slowed before 2016 but couldn’t find a buyer.
The city had growth of seven to 10 houses a year for about 15 years, Harstad said.
“After six years in a row with no growth, the city decided to look at acquiring the 15 acres left for development,” Harstad said.
Harstad said officials “felt like we were missing an opportunity” as they saw the growth in cities near Sioux Falls.
Crooks Mayor Butch Oseby said while residential growth is important, the city also has opportunities for its own commercial and residential growth.
“We need commercial growth along with residential development. We can residential ourselves out of business,” Oseby said.
While residential growth means an increase in property taxes, commercial property pays more in property taxes, Oseby said.
Managing and planning for growth
The Sunset Addition is geared toward houses in the $300,000 range with larger lots, Harstad said.
The new planned addition, called Schoenfelder Development, would have a different focus.
“One thing that’s needed is a focus on first-time home buyers,” Harstad said. “There’s a big need for that in the whole Sioux Falls (area) market.”
One-third of the 80 to 90 lots would be lots for first-time home owners. The lots would be economically priced smaller lots, Harstad said.
An entity like CHRC has an advantage because it doesn’t need to make the same level of profit on lot sales that a private developer would so the lot prices can be lower than those in private developments, Harstad said.
Another third of the lots would be similar to the larger lots in the Sunset Addition, Harstad said.
The final third would be for twin homes or condominiums or similar housing, he said.
“That’s the advantage of a small town: you can plat it anyway you choose. We’ve planned for flexibility,” Harstad said.
Another advantage to Crooks is that it’s still a small town, Oseby said.
The World Population estimates Crooks’ 2020 population at 1,350. The city’s population was 1,269 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We’re kind of a blank slate,” Oseby said. “We have a chance to do planning where we lay things out to be able to walk to areas (commercial or parks).”
Crooks is making sure the city is connected by sidewalks and or a biking/walking trail, Oseby said.
The city has also brought back a requirement to have sidewalks in new developments, he said.
“Everybody wants growth. Everybody wants to keep the small-town feel,” Oseby said of Crooks. “I think we are all on the same page to get that.”
“We don’t want to build something over here and a strip mall there and a strip mall there,” Oseby said. “You want continuity to it.”
Commercial and other economic opportunities in Crooks
Harstad said the CHRC is fulfilling the goals it had in 2016.
“Our goal was to get development in Crooks,” Harstad said.
Housing development can increase a city’s population but could spark, or secure, business activity, Harstad said.
The city is close to the Foundation Park and it’s also close to Walmart in Sioux Falls. So, if future development in Foundation Park sparks business development in the area of that Walmart, it could attract Crooks shoppers who already go to Walmart.
But Oseby sees opportunities for professional services such as dentists, doctors, tax accounts and similar.
The city could also attract a small hardware store, a coffee shop and the like.
“I think there is room for things like that,” Oseby said.
The city is starting to have some economic activity.
The Minnehaha Funeral Home will be building a facility in Crooks.
The city also provided the local economic development corporation $160,000 about a year ago, Oseby said. It used the money to buy two vacant acres in the city, which it sold. The economic development corporation used the sale money to buy another 25 acres that can be used for industrial development.
The city already has had interest from businesses interested in the industrial park, Oseby said.
Crooks is just a few miles from Interstate 29 and five miles from Interstate 90, which can be an advantage in attracting business and industry.
But Oseby said Crooks has another transportation advantage. The city is along the railroad. It also has a side rail, which means cars can be unloaded and loaded on the side rail.
Not every town along a railroad has side rails, he said.
A larger retailer or an industry may need one to two railcars of supplies each week. Oseby gave this example of how a side rail can be used: A warehouse business could be located in Crooks to unload rail cars with needed supplies. Those supplies are kept off site in Crooks until the retailer or industry needs them.
Oseby said the Sioux Falls Foundation and Crooks officials have a cooperative relationship.
“They are willing to work with Crooks,” Oseby said. The Foundation Park is geared toward industries that need five acres or more while Crooks’ park is suitable for one to five acre users.
A well-traveled road
A Benton Township gravel road is one connection between Crooks and Sioux Falls. It passes by Foundation Park and starts where the paved Marion Road ends in the Sioux Falls City limits.
“It’s a little over two miles,” Benton Township Supervisor David Vinzant said of the stretch of 471st that is between the paved section of Marion Road to 258th Street. “It’s an easy way to Walmart and Foundation Park,” Vinzant said.
Traffic has been increasing, he said.
“We have to blade it more,” Vinzant said. “We are getting complaints from people who live on it about excessive speed and washboards.”
As Foundation Park activity increases, traffic increases will likely follow.
The township can’t afford to pave a gravel road, Vinzant said.
But it’s possible the city of Sioux Falls would consider paving it in the future, the city’s public works director Mark Cotter said.
It would be a natural progression to extend pavement to the intersection of what he calls the Renner Crooks road, Cotter said.
That would depend on the progression of activity in Foundation Park and related activity, Cotter said.
But that is only a future possibility.
Cotter said those who travel to and from Crooks and Sioux Falls do have paved options in Interstate 29 and another street.