City gives update on Village on the River parking ramp, council members want more answers

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After months of silence, we’re getting our first new details about the massive, unfinished parking ramp in downtown Sioux Falls. At Tuesday’s city council budget meeting, the public parking facilities manager said the city is redesigning parts of it.

That’s because the ramp was supposed to be attached the Village on the River development. That project failed.

We’ve been waiting to find out what will happen to the parking ramp, that’ll cost taxpayers about $21 million. In past stories, KELOLAND News has reported project stakeholders declined to comment due to any possible lawsuit. Now we’re getting a better idea of what’s next, and why some city council members still aren’t satisfied with the transparency of the project.

Crews are still working on the ramp, and there are still signs advertising Village on the River attached to structure. Now this parking ramp is scheduled to open next June.

“Once that opens, projections are still the same. Minus the mixed-use partner developer,” Matt Nelson, public parking facilities manager, said.

Nelson says 97% of the leased spaces in the ramp are filled. He expects nearly 350 people, who already have parking leases in the city, to move into the space. He says that’ll leave spaces in other lots and ramps up for grabs.

“It’ll give us the ability to accommodate future growth,” Nelson said.

Nelson estimates the ramp will bring in about $300,000 per year, with spots costing $80 per month. Nelson says the city is redesigning parts of the ramp, since it’s going to be a standalone ramp for the foreseeable future.

“These aren’t major changes, but obviously when you take something off the top now, you need roofs on your stairwells. We have doors that went to nowhere that needed to be in-filled with concrete block,” Nelson said.

As for the costs for those changes, Nelson says a contractor is pricing those and final estimates should be in in a month. Council member Pat Starr wants more information, and is concerned the ramp could cost taxpayers even more money.

“We’ve been down the trust path with this project quite a ways, we’re still not getting accurate answers,” Starr said.

“I’m not saying trust me. I’m saying wait til we have the numbers and then evaluate the numbers,” Nelson said.

Council member Theresa Stehly asked about bond payments. Nelson says the city has paid a portion of the next payment to cover interest. The rest of that money, $750,000, is in a trust account right now until the due date in November. Nelson says the city will pay the bond back with a 15-year payment plan.

Stehly: “I know it’s done. Hopefully we’re going to be able to get something positive out of it, but I think it’s a lesson to be learned. When we’re told we’ll go forward, this is great and again, that’s why I want to vet things out. I think the citizens want us to ask these questions. Unfortunately, you’re the only player left in the equation. You’re the last man standing. They’re all gone.”

Nelson: “I guess you can call me loyal.”

Stehly: “Well, the rest of the people who were supporting this aren’t here.”

Council member Greg Neitzert defended the project.

“Somewhere down the road, somebody is going to look and say we have a ramp we have parking in the best part of downtown. There’s going to be people chomping at the bit. They’re going to be on there and we’re going to collect enormous amounts of tax revenue,” Neitzert said

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