SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — City leaders and stakeholders attached to the now defunct Village on the River are avoiding interview questions about the project’s demise and what will happen next. 

Here’s some background. Less than two years ago, the City of Sioux Falls chose to move ahead with the 15-story, $70 million project that included space for a parking ramp, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.  

In April, the city notified Village River Group that it was in default on the project and gave it a month to resolve it, but the City says VRG has failed to do that. On Tuesday, KELOLAND News reported the City terminated the agreement with the VRG.

Village on the River was supposed to change the Sioux Falls skyline.

“Whenever you do a high-rise hotel in South Dakota of course that is extremely unique,” Jeff Lamont, developer, said in May of 2018.

Now, it doesn’t seem like the hotel, restaurants and shops will get off the ground. 

We called several stakeholders in this project looking for answers. Mayor Paul TenHaken’s deputy chief of staff T.J. Nelson declined an on-camera interview. Nelson did direct KELOLAND News to email any questions. 

We also reached out to Legacy Development and Consulting, LLC which was the original private partner. Its media relations person referred us to Village River Group and manager of the project, Lamont. 

Lamont was front and center at the Village on the River groundbreaking a year ago, and spoke with KELOLAND News about his then new involvement. 

“I make all the decisions for this company.  No one else can make any decisions at all for this company.  Any decisions that are made come from me,” Lamont said. 

One of the lingering questions about Village on the River is what’s going to happen to the parking ramp. Taxpayers will pay about $21 million for it, and the city spent an extra $6 million to make the ramp fit what would’ve been the state’s tallest building. 

Now that that part project is dead, it looks like Downtown could have a parking ramp meant for a 15-story building attached to nothing. 

The City says it hasn’t ruled out a private development at the site in the future, but right now is focused on completing the parking ramp portion of the project. 

KELOLAND News also reached out to Mike Huether, who was mayor when the city approved this project. Though Huether and KELO reached an agreement for him to host the entertainment show KELOLAND ‘On The Road,’ he is not a KELO employee. 

Here is Huether’s statement:

“I was honored to serve Sioux Falls as the mayor as you know, but I have been out of office for over a year now.  The appropriate and most knowledgeable folks to talk to about the project are Mayor Paul, his team, and the development partner.  I have had no influence nor control on what has evolved nor the in’s and out’s on this topic since I handed over the gavel to the mayor.  In general terms though, development deals and the subsequent agreements and their execution are always complicated.  Public/private partnerships can be even more so, and there is a bunch of hard work involved.  I will keep cheering Sioux Falls on.”

Here is the Village River Group’s statement: