Turning historic buildings in Whittier neighborhood into high-end offices

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) —About 20 years ago downtown Sioux Falls saw some major changes as businesses began to invest in aging, vacant buildings, leading to the now bustling Phillips Avenue.

That growth continues as new developments like Cherapa Place and The Steel District transform the land in the heart of the city.  

But as more companies search for office space in Sioux Falls, many are looking in the same direction.

“We’ve always been attracted to downtown,” the owners of the Lockwood and Zahrbock Kool Law Office said. 

“We really wanted to stay downtown,” Alana Snyder, the co-owner of 605 Magazine said. 

“We just think downtown is the place to be, we’ve done surveys with our team and what they want is to have an office in downtown Sioux Falls,” Click Rain + Lemonly CEO Natalie Eisenberg said. 

But with so little real estate left downtown, several local businesses recently purchased property in this rarely developed section of the city.

“It’s an area of Sioux Falls that hasn’t had the priority and the developing,” Sioux Falls attorney Tressa Zahrbock Kool said. “Now with downtown Sioux Falls really being landlocked, there isn’t many places you can go; you have to go to the other side of the river and that’s where we’re at now.”

Rhonda Lockwood and Tressa Zahrbock Kool set out to find a new home for their law office and settled on the 1940s building at the bottom of the 10th Street viaduct and Franklin Avenue that Lockwood said once housed a plumbing company and most recently a thrift store. 

“You can’t recreate land and location,” Zahrbock Kool said. “Clearly the building we found doesn’t fit for what we needed it for, so we’re going to do some renovations and get it to where it’s going to work for our practice and then hopefully fit well into the community and bring other businesses to the area too.”

“We will have a kitchen over in this corner,” Eisenberg said. 

Just a couple blocks north, Click Rain + Lemonly are in a similar stage of construction…

“We’re cleaning up these rafters, the team is taking a soda blaster and making old wood look new again,” Eisenberg said during a tour of the 7th Street building. 

…turning this historic building into a blank canvas for their new headquarters.

“We love the idea of the history of this building, the neighborhood is really up and coming and we’ve got some great neighbors nearby we know are doing great things,” Eisenberg said. 

“This is kind of the state it’s in right now,” 605 Magazine co-owner John Snyder said. 

Like the owners of 605 Magazine who just closed on the historic Handley building on 6th Street built in 1913, the future headquarters of their creative companies.

“We’re really passionate about being in this neighborhood with 6th Street growing, we’re right by Click Rain and by a bunch of different developments and Cherapa growing on 6th Street as well,” Snyder said. 

“We knew the growth was coming this direction,” Stone Group Architect owner Todd Stone said. 

But before all of these new developments came about, Stone Group Architects was one of the first companies to move its office to this historic part of downtown in 2019.

“As architects, we see the scale of the city at the high level and also have an eye for buildings that might be the diamond in the rough, this was one of the buildings,” Stone said of his office on East 7th Street.

The former firehouse still contains some of the remnants of its previous tenants, a piece of history Stone wanted to preserve.

“We don’t have as much of the old buildings as they do in say Sioux City,” Stone said. “So the ones we do have here we want to embrace them and salvage them for the next generation to enjoy.”

But restoring the past to its former glory or a new purpose altogether comes with some major challenges.

“It takes a lot of patience first, it’s a long process,” Zahrbock Kool said. “When you’re remodeling an old building you don’t really know what you’re going to get into until you start opening it up. So yes you can have the inspections done, have a general idea,  but then you start tearing down walls and you don’t really know what you’re going to get into behind those walls.”

And while those discoveries can often be exciting….

“At some point, someone seventies this thing in the wrong direction,” John Snyder said. “They covered the original tin ceilings, covered the floors that are the original wood. It’s all there, we’re going to renovate and bring this out and see what we can save.”

…restoring them comes with a big price tag.

“We probably could have built new more economically, but the chance to take a hidden gem in Sioux Falls and make it new again was really important to us,” Eisenberg said. 

“It’s actually more expensive than building new but what you lose is the character, you can’t find the stonemasons that know how to do the same quality of the detail that were on a lot of these old buildings,” Stone said. 

Stone says these kinds of unique restoration investments always come with a big return.

“The bones of this building are so interesting and the history is so interesting, it’s got unique features and things we wouldn’t build into a brand new building, things like this old elevator shaft and these awesome saw tooth rooftops,” Eisenberg said. 

Some one-of-a-kind design elements…

“This was most recently a beauty shop, before that it was an appliance store, before that it was a hardware store,” Snyder said. 

That also comes with more than 100 years of Sioux Falls history.

“At one point this was the oldest active drug store in the city,  so many people have so many good memories here,” Snyder said. “I feel a responsibility to make this neighborhood, and this building specifically, as good as we can.”

A passion for redevelopment these business owners hope will spread all over this up-and-coming downtown neighborhood.

“The best part about those businesses moving in, they really want to embrace the neighborhood and it makes a big difference, coming in and wanting to be a good neighbor, is the right attitude to have,” Stone said. “It’s going to be great to see what happens here in the next 8 to 10 years.”

“I honestly think it’s so exciting, we’ve all been seeing what’s been happening on the other side of the river, waiting to see what happens here. And now we’re going to start seeing it come to fruition,” Lockwood said. 

All three of these historic redevelopment projects hope to have construction complete in the next year and will also come with some exterior renovations bringing improved parking lots and elevated green space to this corner of downtown.

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