Who is really ‘Benefitting’ from the River Greenway Project?

The City of SF Audit Committee will be releasing their audit of the river greenway project, which has cost taxpayers almost $10 million so far (the project was originally going to cost around $2-4 million, if my memory serves me well). The original plan was to upgrade the bike trail and landscaping by the river, which would have been just fine. But someone got a hold of someone’s ear at the Parks department and now we have the current ‘San Antonio’ version of the greenway project. This all started with mayor Munson and has seemed to snowball since then, we have bought a bridge (maybe two), bulk heads, a spray park and the infamous (and dangerous) steps into the river. We have also torn down a parking ramp.

Document: confluence

Design of the project was almost 10% of the total cost of the entire project. In the research I have done, projects of this size and nature usually run about 6% of the total project cost. I knew this was going to be a money sucker from the beginning, we have even bonded (borrowed) almost 50% of the total cost of the project. I have often thought if taxpayers would have voted on this project, it would have been scaled back. It seems contractors, developers, engineers and architects are deciding what is good for the citizens of this town, this practice needs to end.



#1 Testor15 on 08.01.13 at 12:41 pm

I had to get this off my chest so let’s talk about it…

I’ve been thinking about the mayor’s “San Antonio of the North” project in Sioux Falls. The river going through Sioux Falls been bugging me for years. It would a great asset if used and promoted properly, so why is it failing?

1. The muddy slimy Sioux River is “always smelly and funny colored”. Sure it is, until we get our farmers to the north to put in green grass belts along the river to catch the runoffs we are going to have it. So we must deal with what we have.

2. We have an automobile society and most Sioux Falls residents are lazy. Overall we do not like to be more than a few feet from our cars. Our collective mentality says we need to be able to park our car, run into the store or we go somewhere else.

3. We have no collective community consciousness. Sure we do some grand events in a park someplace but we do nothing to build community places so we can actually socialize.

4. We have a downtown for ‘downtowners’. These downtowners are the special people or ‘specials’ of our town. As soon as the ‘masses’ discover a bar, restaurant, park or event, the specials move on asking for a new place they can go, to get away from the masses. It reminds me of being in a quiet bar / restaurant recently when the guests left because they wanted to be ‘seen’. They need their special places.

5. So back to the greenway. I have been to many cities around the globe with natural water ways of some sort, even San Antonio. When in these towns and cities the one thing noticed is how accessible the water is. In other words, the community walks, socializes, dines, fishes, retails within feet of the water’s edge.

6. What does Sioux Falls do? We put a concrete wall and decorate it so the river cannot be seen. Put up buildings to block the river from the people. Our ‘leaders’ make the river so unpleasant, people go somewhere else.

7. We tear down buildings to get rid of ‘unsightly’ properties (usually small structures with some architectural value) to make way for grand properties.

8. Grand properties like the Lloyd buildings along the greenway are built with parking lots fronting on the river. How come the cars can enjoy the river view but not us? I really like Joshua Coffee but how stupid is it to start a socializing / guesting revolution in Sioux Falls a parking lot away from the water’s edge. How nice would it be to grab a cup of coffee from Steve and sit along the river’s edge? It can’t happen there because the parking lot has the better view.

9. The new hotel is a place specials and visitors are going to be able to enjoy the water’s edge, not the common person who has to pay for it. Why?

10. Look at the other buildings being considered for the water’s edge and tell me these are for the benefit of community building. We have a bike trail with steps to a river no one can easily access unless you are a building resident.

The river greenway will never be anything more than a rich man’s dream because there is nothing there to bring the masses now or in the future. It needs bars, restaurants, boutiques, tourist traps, bike shops, vending machines or whatever dreamers can come up with to draw people 12 months of the year. We must stop putting up buildings designed for our SUV society along the limited space we have available along the river. We have a growing, revitalizing downtown along Phillips Ave a block over from where the town is spending millions with nothing to ‘tie’ the river to the town.

Our ‘leaders’ make the river an obstacle to be surmounted.

Now we have 10 acres of railroad land on the horizon to redevelop. There are developers salivating to build their next big dream project. So we will allow another big project to be placed in the middle of the ‘new’ downtown area stretching over to Weber Ave. Another big development of parking lots and concrete we will not walk to get to Latitudes on Weber.

So we have a River Greenway project made for developers painting pretty pictures of activity and architecture but no long term value for the town or people. When are we going to have buildings with a retail ability up close and useable to small shops to draw more people to a vibrant downtown? Sioux Falls river greenway will never be as our mayor says “HUGE” because it is designed by specials for the specials. It is being constructed with profits to developers first and the taxpayer last.

#2 Craig on 08.01.13 at 1:33 pm

@ DL – I won’t dispute what you’re saying and I think we all know there will be more costs than the $115M they tossed around (but at least they remembered to include the cost of installation on the windows this time). However it doesn’t really have anything to do with the Russell project. (Not that the Russell project has anything to do with the River Greenway) 🙂

@ Testor – some good stuff there… I agree with you on some points, disagree on others. I do know we put far too much value on parking lots but at the same time nothing is preventing people from walking down to the riverbank and having a picnic.

That said, the riverbank is much like downtown in general. Walk through 8th and Railroad and tell me how many of those stores appeal to the masses. Walk along Phillips and tell me how many low income people you see window shopping. Even the bars and restaurants tend to cater to a different crowd… which is understandable considering DTSF has a hissy fit every time someone wants to try something different.

It might be a chicken and the egg thing. Is downtown designed for a certain class of people because that is what the city leaders and DTSF wants, or is it that way because those are the only people who frequent downtown? I guess when you combine that many law offices, government offices, media companies, and CPAs… you probably draw a different crowd.

Downtown and the river should be for all types of people… but the only times I see a diverse cross-section of people downtown is during parades and events. The remainder of the year it is more of the same… but perhaps to some degree spray parks and pedestrian bridges are trying to change some of that?

#3 Testor15 on 08.01.13 at 1:38 pm

Craig, it always bugs me the way several retailers downtown close up during special events and then wonder why the masses do not consider them when making purchases. If you are downtown business, be open for the special event times so the curious will become the future buyer.

How do you grow a retail district when these same criers for growth are not open to the masses.

#4 Detroit Lewis on 08.01.13 at 1:53 pm

“Even the bars and restaurants tend to cater to a different crowd”

Yeah, you should see the crowd at TJ’s during Sunday Football, real high-rollers 🙂

“It might be a chicken and the egg thing. Is downtown designed for a certain class of people because that is what the city leaders and DTSF wants, or is it that way because those are the only people who frequent downtown?”

It all started with the infamous words of Tim Kant when he wanted to open Stogeez but wanted the loop closed to cruisers and showed up to the CC meeting and while pounding the podium said, “We gotta get rid of these kids!” He and several councilors and other DT business owners blamed the broken liquor bottles and urine in doorways on ‘Loopers’ Not the case at all, it was mostly transients and drunks making the mess. When I turned 21, downtown was hopping with a ton of things to do for younger people, there was two live music clubs, and Skellys followed, and the most popular dance club. All gone. Now you can listen to some old hippie play 70’s folk songs on Bro’s patio, or some sleepy Jazz at the place I work. Ever since the loop closed, it was DTSF’s mission to turn DT into a yuppie playground, and they have been successful. Vishnu Bunny almost had to move mountains to open his new location DT. There has also been attempts in the past to close down Lucky’s because it doesn’t appeal to the ‘Specials’. Which is kinda ironic, considering it is probably the best, and most reasonably priced bar DT. I have said a million times on here the key to making DT hopping is diversity in retail.

#5 Poly43 on 08.01.13 at 5:12 pm

Craig, the 23 mil figure I got from an argus article several months ago. Can’t read their archives but this might help. Google…

“Final details of a major $23 million road construction project on Russell Street will be released”

What makes Russell any different than any of the other principal arterials at commute time in this town? All adding another lane will do is enable us to hurry up and wait at at any number of other bumper to bumper jams.

#6 Poly43 on 08.01.13 at 5:49 pm

The discussion has brought up the attitude of the ‘special’ people in this town. Why do you think we needed a new EC? Certainly not for the 12,000 seats which will be empty more than not. This is more about suite and loge seating where the ‘special’ people can have a place to be seen and wine and dine clients making that ‘special’ deal that could not otherwise be made.

And the huge effort to try to put a shine on the turd known as the Sioux River thru downtown. It’s not even really the sioux river. It’s more skunk creek than big sioux. Wanna see what flows thru skunk creek DT? Go to the falls in the middle of march and take a good look at the 15 foot walk of foam at the bottom of the falls. Wanna great view? Go to the steps to nowhere at cherapa’s place and look across the river to the West Bank. Look at the West Bank from anywhere as far as that goes. It’s a mess. See what 9 million really bought us.

#7 rufusx on 08.01.13 at 10:24 pm

The whole thrust of this is a common one not just in SF, but wherever you see ANY growth and development in SD. It’s the ruralist “Olde Timers” vs, the urbanist “Special People”. Happened in Harrisburg. Happened in Lennox. Happened in Tea. Happened in Brandon. Culture clash. ESPECIALLY visible in school district conflicts.

#8 Craig on 08.02.13 at 9:03 am

Poly: “Craig, the 23 mil figure I got from an argus article several months ago.”

Hard to know without more detail, but the information shown on the documents at SiouxFalls.org shows a price of under $19M. Perhaps there were additional costs added later or something that isn’t part of the actual road project (landscaping etc). Either way it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t compare the price of this project to a typical roadway when you factor in bridges, new storm sewers, bike lanes etc. etc.

Poly: “What makes Russell any different than any of the other principal arterials at commute time in this town? All adding another lane will do is enable us to hurry up and wait at at any number of other bumper to bumper jams.”

Well for starters it dumps directly to I-29 which helps ease the load so it isn’t like 57th, 69th, or 26th. Secondly it will have more lanes which will hopefully prevent most of the bumper to bumper issues. It also has available land to actually add lanes… as I said before the state would love to add another two lanes to 12th, but it isn’t feasible due to the businesses and homes that line the road. 41st and Minnesota have already been widened as far as they can go – same goes for most of the other major roads.

Add to this that Russell gets a LOT of truck traffic not only due to the commercial/industrial areas but also because it is the Northern primary access point to Minnesota. It is also the primary access from I-29 to the airport and the guard base.

I cannot fathom why anyone would say this project is unreasonable. It isn’t like they are adding six lanes to 60th St North here – the traffic along Russell will more than support this.

#9 Tom H. on 08.02.13 at 9:43 am

Downtown is full of hipsters and wealthy yuppies because truly urban neighborhoods are in demand, and in Sioux Falls, the supply (one neighborhood) can’t possibly meet the demand. Add in the fact that our (now even more) outdated zoning codes actually prohibit the construction of areas like downtown, and you see the problem. When the market is forbidden from adding supply to meet demand, prices will rise and the clientèle will be wealthier.

#10 anonymous on 08.02.13 at 11:36 am

Tom H

It’s misleading when you say….

Add in the fact that OUR (now even more) outdated zoning codes….

Makes it sound like you are a Sioux Falls resident, when in fact, you have stated that you have lived in the Twin Cities for I believe the past eight years.

Certainly you are entitled to an opinion, but clearly you are not experiencing life on a daily basis here in the Dakotas……a very different environment than the State of Minnesota and esp. the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

There was an earlier attempt to build new “affordable” housing on Main Avenue, it was thwarted by the powers that be! Finally, Good Sam is in the process of completing in August one building of “income-based” housing in the DT SF area.

#11 Tom H. on 08.02.13 at 12:50 pm

@anon – You’re right, I do live in the Twin Cities, but I try to remain informed and aware of issues in Sioux Falls (especially when it comes to urban development and planning). I hope to move back to Sioux Falls someday, and still consider it my true home, as much of my family still lives in the area.

If you object to my use of pronouns, I apologize – I’ll try to avoid ‘we’ and ‘our’. If you object to the content of my arguments, please make your case and we can have a discussion about it.

In response to your final paragraph – those projects are urban insofar as they are higher-density residential. What I mean by ‘truly urban’ is more what you see on Phillips Ave between, say, 10th and 11th streets: a mix of buildings styles, sizes, uses and ages. A quick look at an aerial photo shows about1 10-15 separate buildings on each side of the street per block.

When we get ‘urban’ developments nowadays, it’s usually a half-block 4-story apartment building with a parking structure on the main level. Little mix of uses, no fine-grained diversity of building styles and ages, and little street-level activity. It’s similar in appearance, but much different in character. In my opinion, the biggest driver of this difference are the required parking minimums imposed by the zoning laws.

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