Eye On KELOLAND: Legacy in steel

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Now that the Levitt at the Falls concert season has come to a close, construction has started ramping-up next-door to the Levitt shell at a major redevelopment project in downtown Sioux Falls.

The $218-million dollar Steel District will eventually bring apartments, a hotel, a convention center, retail, office spaces and a parking ramp to the site of the Sioux Steel Company. Part of the century-old manufacturing business will be folded into the development as a way of preserving the industrial roots of Sioux Falls.

Tim Norris has worked at the Sioux Steel company for twenty years.

“I came here from heavy equipment and worked on heavy equipment most of my adult life, that and structural steel, and came here and got into research and development and just love it,” Norris said.

As an R & D technician, Norris is working on a prototype for a paddle sweep for grain bins.

“It cleans out the grain, it sweeps the whole floor, so they don’t have to get in there with a broom and do it, and it will do an astonishingly good job,” Norris said.

Norris works inside a mostly-empty building, with the manufacturing side of Sioux Steel having moved to Lennox years ago. But Norris enjoys this steely solitude.

“I love it because I don’t have anybody around me and I can just go, go, go,” Norris said.

But the emptiness inside these sprawling buildings in downtown Sioux Falls conceals a business plan full of promise.

“We’re opening the door to a new future,” Sioux Steel President & CEO Scott Rysdon said.

This back entry opens to a vast vacant lot that was once the company’s grain bin department. That building has been torn-down and now earth-moving equipment is preparing the site for what will be home to a parking ramp and office building as part of the Steel District development.

“My great grandfather and grandfather would be so proud to see something old being replaced with something so new and great for the city, I think they would be so excited, and we are too, obviously,” Rysdon said.

Sioux Steel has been in Scott Rysdon’s family for generations. It started operations back in 1918.

“It was a different economy then, right? It was more of a manufacturing economy and that’s why a lot of these places, all across the United States, down by the river, are moving out in pace of urban development because it’s time for us to move,” Rysdon said.

But the move will be gradual for Sioux Steel. The remaining buildings still house steel coils and beams that will eventually be turned into grain bins and other farming equipment.

“Steel’s kind of at a premium, so we’re storing steel here, so that when we need it, it goes to the Lennox facilities where all the manufacturing is currently,” Rysdon said.

The company says it’s important to preserve remnants of the steel industry which was an important building block in the early 20th Century here in Sioux Falls.

“We brought in steel by rail in the beginning and then by truck and we fabricated cupolas, vents for buildings, you can see them on buildings even in Sioux Falls. We were a building-products company first, then into age in the forties and fifties and beyond,” Rysdon said.

But the remaining buildings, that date back decades, will likely have to undergo major renovations in order to become part of the Steel District. And Rysdon sees plenty of promise for developers to convert the old buildings into profitable new enterprises.

“We’ve had everything from brew pubs and breweries to pickleball courts, things like that, so we’re open to any ideas,” Rysdon said.

The Sioux Steel buildings are a kind of time capsule of the early days of industrialization in Sioux Falls. A bygone era where the manufacturing past is clearing the way for a new future of downtown living.

“From that rough early beginning to this, is fantastic to see,” Rysdon said.

The Sioux Steel company’s downtown buildings also house offices. But workers say they’re far enough away from the Steel District construction to not be affected by the noise.

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