SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Residents of Sioux Falls are familiar with the busy intersection at 10th Street and Cliff Avenue.
The storefronts and restaurants that sit along 10th Street have long been a part of the neighborhood just to the east of downtown. One of the most biggest updates to the area along the Big Sioux River was the renovation of Drake Springs Family Aquatic Center in 2009. Now, the city of Sioux Falls is hoping to expand downtown across the river and revitalize the neighborhood.
Monday, the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary hosted Mayor Paul TenHaken, Click Rain CEO Natalie Eisenberg and South Eastern Development Foundation Executive Director Lynn Keller Forbes to discuss the proposed Riverline District development in that area.
“We in Sioux Falls, we’ve done a good job branding Downtown Sioux Falls, the East Bank, Uptown and a lot of people don’t associate downtown with jumping over the river, but really that’s where our downtown is moving,” TenHaken said.
Right now, the area holds a skate park, Drake Springs Family Aquatic Center, the bike path and various businesses and offices, including the South Dakota Department of Social Services. TenHaken said there is no intention of getting rid of the pool or skate park as that is what makes that area of land so attractive. But the state has been looking to consolidate its Sioux Falls offices, including the Department of Social Services, into one campus.
“They’re not getting kicked out; they’re gonna be going to a new home,” TenHaken said.
As for the many families that call this area home, TenHaken assured the audience there would be no impact to the housing already in this area. Addressing criticism of gentrification of the neighborhood, TenHaken said that no social services will be moved to accommodate the development.
“There’s very little gentrification happening, which is why this parcel’s so attractive,” TenHaken said.
Stakeholders in the project said that this will not impact the city’s homeless population that utilizes services in the area, but the city and its partners continue to look at the possibility to decentralize those services.
“As our community is growing and prospering, along with that comes some larger city challenges,” Eisenberg told the Rotary members. “I don’t think we’ll ever solve homelessness, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help and continue to get people back into better situations and always treating them with dignity.”
City pushes for revenue source in Riverline District
What will fill the Riverline District has yet to be determined but the stakeholders of the project and the mayor are leaning toward some sort of sporting venue.
Eisenberg said public input so far has shown an interest in outdoor recreational activities and seasonal recreation for families in the neighborhood. TenHaken repeatedly mentioned the possibility of a stadium to fill that area.
“There’s gonna be naysayers that say, ‘We don’t need a sports stadium; what we need is affordable housing.’ Yes, we need both,” TenHaken said.
TenHaken said “quite a few” people have mentioned the possibility of placing housing in the area and while the mayor agrees housing should be a component of the Riverline District, it shouldn’t solely be a housing development.
Instead, the mayor hopes to see a combination of housing and free and paid recreation.
“We’ve also had the [Major League Soccer] reach out to us about soccer,” TenHaken continued. “They love Sioux Falls; they’ve had their eye on Sioux Falls as a market.”
The announcement of the Riverline District included Leo Diaz, the director of the Atlas Academy which is a non-profit soccer organization. Eisenberg and TenHaken both spoke to the need for better access to soccer fields for the city’s youth who they say are using church gyms among other indoor spaces to practice.
One Rotarian asked about the city’s push for soccer in the Riverline District to which TenHaken replied that the city has not done a good job taking care of the youth who need a hand up but are falling through the cracks. Better access to sports, mentors and recreation areas could help, he said.
Public comment closes on March 24
Despite what the city is thinking for the proposed area, the stakeholders said that they are going to read public comments and decide based on what the people of Sioux Falls want.
“I think the last thing anybody wants to do is force something on the community and sell something they’re not buying,” TenHaken said.
But, he continued, Sioux Falls is “sorely lacking” in indoor recreation areas for the city’s youth and so he hopes there is some youth component to whatever is built in the proposed development.
When looking at visuals created by Co-Op Architecture, Eisenberg said the district would include a lot of green space and creative recreational space in addition to indoor and outdoor venues that are both free and paid.
Eisenberg also spoke of downtowns in other cities they say are comparable to downtown Sioux Falls including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Kansas City, Missouri; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Austin, Texas.
“Who’s been to Oklahoma City in the last 10 years? Incredible downtown,” TenHaken said. “It has been transformed by something called their MAPs program: Metro Area Projects.”
The MAPs program utilizes a local option sales tax where residents vote every seven years on a package of initiatives of city projects.
“And if it gets passed, one cent sales tax is added to the community, to the MSA that funds those projects with cash. As soon as they’re paid for, the tax expires and they bring a new project forward and the community gets to vote on it,” TenHaken explained.
The mayor said he’s been in conversation with Sioux Falls Development Foundation President Bob Mundt and others to begin lobbying in Pierre to receive the authority to offer a local option sales tax to voters in Sioux Falls. It’s one of the ways TenHaken believes that multi-million projects like this can be paid for in a state like South Dakota that he says has few revenue sources.
For now, though, the city remains in the public comment phase of the plan and is reading hundreds of submitted ideas from residents.
To look at those ideas or submit your own you can visit the Riverline District website and submit a comment before March 24.