Entries Tagged 'Downtown Sioux Falls' ↓

City of Sioux Falls Forestry Dept needs to concentrate on growing BRAINS instead of TREES


Yeah, I shook my head to after reading the above postcard (that I did not receive though I live in the neighborhood, a neighbor a few blocks away showed it to me).

This program all got started after a few homeowners who live close to Waterford were upset because (God forbid) Waterford had to tear down a couple of trees to build their expansion (on land they own, that will help residents with therapy on premise).

Waterford was probably tired of the trail of tears running down Phillips avenue so they donated money to the neighborhood to plant 100 trees.

That part is a fantastic idea.

Where it takes a turn to the lobotomy clinic is wanting to plant those trees in the boulevard. After all the headache we have had in the historic neighborhoods with tree rubbish after the ice storm you would have thought we learned our lesson about boulevard trees (FEMA gave us $10 million for cleanup). Not to mention the many other concerns with them.

When Project TRIM rolls around they make you trim those trees if they are impeding street and sidewalk traffic, they also wreak havoc on water, sewer and gas lines. They also impede power and cable lines, and traffic site issues. Enough already!

We need to prohibit the planting of boulevard trees in Sioux Falls, in ALL neighborhoods. I encourage the group to plant the trees in parks and green spaces or set back in front or back yards of people’s homes, but lets grow something besides trees, lets grow a brain, and stop planting trees in the boulevard and plant vegetable gardens and flowers in that space instead.

25 years in Sioux Falls

This month will mark my 25th anniversary in Sioux Falls.

I thought about this after Jodi Schwan wrote an article about Downtown, but would have to disagree with her on a few things, but I will get to that.

I moved here in 1991 to attend school at SE Tech for Graphic Communications. My first apartment was a block West of Gigglebees, I lived there throughout schooling. I worked at a restaurant close by on Minnesota Avenue (I made $4.60 an hour, and my share of the rent with my one roommate was about $150 a month). I used to walk downtown on nice days, the only thing really opened at that time was Zandbroz and Minervas. I would try to eat at Zandbroz Soda Falls about once a month, they had killer quiche and smoothies. At that time, I was 19, I felt DT had a lot more potential, it had a lot of cool old buildings, I found out later I wasn’t the only one who thought about it.

As I was finishing school in 1993 I got a job at a printshop called PATCO printing, in the old Lewis Building (we had a run of the entire building, and some of the stuff in the basement and upstairs offices left behind was cool to dig thru). PATCO was owned by Pat Pilcher, a former state legislator in the hay day of Democrats in Pierre and a flaming liberal, I was the only male employee, and I got a lesson really quick in (female) politics. Pat used to print the NARRAL newsletter and fundraising stuff, and the ‘ladies’ would come in with wine, crackers and cheese and sit in the conference room and stuff newsletters. Mostly talk politics. Thelma Underberg (sp?) Loila Hunking and several others would grace the stuffing parties, I learned quick as to just listen. This is where I met Carol Pogones, (I think) she convinced Pat to put the printshop in downtown. Carol was on a one woman mission to revitalize Downtown, and she worked it.

Pat passed away, and her brother took over, so left to work at a different printshop, and for a short stint I moved into some apartments on Cleveland and for awhile over by Seratoma Bingo, but I wanted to be back downtown. I eventually moved to the Ronning Apartments and absolutely loved it. I was a frequenter at the Pomp Room and Jamz. I eventually got an apartment of my own a block behind Black Sheep Coffee (formerly Great Plains) I lived there for 7 years before buying my home 14 years ago near Avera Hospital. I loved being close to DT and Scott Hudson and I had a couple year stint where we met for coffee almost every weekday morning at Black Sheep talking smack and politics. It’s funny to watch all the upcoming hipsters in downtown, I knew them as teenagers working at Black Sheep. My first art exhibit was at Black Sheep and I started an art club called MAC (Midwest Artist Collective) at the coffee shop. We would do shows at various DT businesses.

I missed working at PATCO, mostly missing working downtown. I got a job at a startup company called Image Nation in the Stewart Building. I was a regular at Sanchez Taquitos and Skelly’s for lunch. I also fell in love with the restaurants. I have always worked part-time in restaurants in Sioux Falls for extra money. But I would have short stints doing other stuff like DJ’ing at the KRRO and working as lead usher for the Pavilion the first four years they were open. This is how I met Razmik Mhitarian, owner of the Touch of Europe. When the Pavilion opened, there was only really 3 staple sit down restaurants DT, Tina’s, Minervas and Touch of Europe. After several Black Russian Shots, Raz convinced me to work at Touch of Europe, in which I did on and off until almost it’s closing. I have also worked at JL Beers (horrible experience) The Diner (great experience) The Brickhouse (formerly the Brewery) and Crawfords. I also displayed my art at NITWITS comedy club, in which one night, a piece got vandalized.

I met all the movers and shakers of the DT scene over those years at the TOE, and to this day have several strangers tell me I waited on them down there on first dates and marriage proposals. While I was mostly brash and rude, most liked my sense of humor, we really knew how to weed out the customers we didn’t want, it was our reputation. When the Pomp closed, the Jazz scene really exploded at the Touch of Europe, and since Tina’s and Minervas would close at 9 PM, we got the after show rush of the Pavilion. Some people don’t believe me, but we would usually stay open until almost 2 AM, and after parties would last sometimes until 6 AM.

It was really a cool time to be DT, (about 12 years ago) and I knew better things were coming. I will always give credit to Carol for putting a boot up Dave Munson’s ass to get DT rolling. I’m sure he tells a different story :). And the Pavilion was huge to the success and growth of DT. Mayor Huether really was handed the success of DT on a silver platter from Dave’s administration.

This is where I differ on Jodi’s opinion of how DT can grow;

Probably more disappointing is that the city doesn’t appear to be successfully driving these sorts of creative partnerships. And it’s not only happening with the River Greenway project.

I think in the comings weeks we will learn about a renewed effort to build a mixed-use parking ramp east of the future Lewis Drug, but sadly with better strategy and leadership a more comprehensive project already could have been under construction there. The effort to make a small triangle of city property on Ninth Street available for riverfront development seemingly has stalled. My guess is before the end of the year we will see more discussion about potential uses for the railyard property.

But all these opportunities will require political will if we are going to maximize them, and given the mood of the current City Council I’m not sure how well-received much additional attention for downtown will be. Any leadership here may have to come again from the business community.

“I would love to see three or four cranes downtown,” Houwman said at the Washington Square event. “There are underutilized, underdeveloped properties downtown.”

It’s a commendable vision. But it would be more likely fulfilled if the public sector were driving momentum downtown as well as the private sector is.

I suppose we can throw a lot of public money at DT, as Huether and Darrin Smith have done, but I really think the business and development community need to pony up now, I think of the blood, sweat and tears people like Jeff Danz, Razmik, Kristina Kuehn, Erika and Dave Billion and the Hazards have put in DT over the years, they did this on their own, they made it happen. We can hand out TIF’s like candy and offer incentives to Raven Industries and Cherapa place by building them tax funded store fronts, but the real progress and growth for DT will come the old fashion way, like from people like Zach DeBoer who spent $200 of his own money to paint stripes on the street.

I would really like to see the business community tell city government, “Thanks for your help over the years, but we got it from here.”


Of all the things I love about Sioux Falls, it’s Downtown is the true Gem of the city, it’s been successful because individuals and businesses have decided to invest in it. Whether the city wants to throw more tax payer money at it is up in the air (they actually do thru several TIF’s, special property tax assessments and the facade easement program) but I don’t see this freight train stopping anytime soon.

Another art show, another weekend

Thanks to everyone who came out to Artists Against Hunger this past weekend, join me again this First Friday Downtown!



Millions of Dollars spent on the river greenway . . .

And who is using it the most? Pokemon zombies who downloaded the app for free. To bad Rainbow Comics isn’t downtown, now that’s economic development.


HUGE FAIL! $27 million Federal tax dollars and rail traffic in Downtown Sioux Falls will remain almost the same

railyard winter 15

The cold hard truth about the RR relocation project

Yesterday at the informational meeting there was an update on the RR relocation project. And while the switching yard will move outside of town (that is why we are getting ten acres of land) it was confirmed by planning staff that rail traffic will remain ‘almost’ the same.

I guess when the environmental study was done, BNSF explained that while the longer trains will not be switching cars for smaller deliveries downtown anymore with Eastern and Ellis, that those deliveries will still have to be made Downtown. Planning described it as ‘Smaller trains, but more frequent traffic’.

I went to the city council meeting last night, and during public input I expressed my disappointment in how this project has really changed from its original intent, which was to close the switching yard downtown AND reduce rail traffic. In fact, it could get worse with more frequent train traffic.

Not sure where the train went off the tracks with this project (no pun intended) but it seems the feet dragging and delay after Huether took office may have affected the final result. It was no secret that Huether was cock blocking the project so talk of an Events Center downtown could be quelled. The ten acres would have made a perfect spot for a parking lot for a downtown EC. In fact many still burning from the sting of that whole fiasco have argued that is all that property is good for, besides a public park. As I expressed last night, you won’t be able to build residential, and retail may be questionable also. Besides the noise of the more frequent trains running along the development land, the close proximity to the river could flood the Southern edge of the development. There has been talk about making the area a ‘quiet zone’ which requires crossbars on the street, but as I have understood Federal law on that, there will still have to be some kind of (audio) warning system in place. And even if the whistles are NOT blowing the rattle and clank of trains is loud enough.

Of course all of my whining really is coming to late. Our media really failed pointing out the reality of this project, the only journalist willing to say anything in agreement with me is Johnathan Ellis, and he gets chided for it.

This project is a HUGE FAIL for Federal Tax payers, a HUGE FAIL for downtown commuters and soon it will become a HUGE FAIL for local tax payers once we will be all standing around holding the bag for a piece of property we paid $27 million for that at most, probably will sell for around $4-5 million, AFTER we clean it up.

This is prime example of how pathetic government can really be with our money.


Darrin Smith uses common sense for once


In one of his last decisions as community development director, he chose to use common sense;

May 26, 2016: Smith, in what’s likely to be his last press conference as Community Development director, says city will not build a standalone ramp and instead will look for new partners to move forward with mixed-use parking facility.

Not only was it obvious to NOT build a standalone structure, I don’t think the administration had the votes on the council to get a standalone passed and built, especially with the current discussion about the new administration building.

At least Smith goes out on a good note.

Touchmark to gift trees to All Saints Neighborhood

Funny, after all of the crying about ‘destroying a neighborhood’ by cutting down a couple of trees, it seems the neighborhood may have a change of heart;

When Touchmark removed dozens of mature trees, angered neighbors said they felt misled about the number of trees that would be spared.

Last week, Touchmark agreed to donate $3,750 to help the All Saints Neighborhood Association plant up to 100 trees in the neighborhood.

“Neighbors aren’t always going to agree on issues. What’s important is that something positive has come about because of the issue itself,” said Katrina Lehr-McKinney, the association’s president. “Touchmark, in our neighborhood, has found another way to work together to make something positive happen.”

I have said from the beginning a couple of things,

  • Touchmark owns the property, they should be able to build what they want to within limitations.
  • The grove of trees next to the retirement center was actually pretty creepy (I nicknamed it Gorky Park), and anything there would be an improvement (in fact I have been enjoying the construction project because you can see the old building now that the trees are removed).
  • I have felt this was never about the trees but the industrial hospital complexes fighting Touchmark providing therapy and care to their clients on campus, and some neighbors in the hood were manipulated to fight it under the guise of ‘trees’ and ‘historical preservation’.
  • Now we find out, they will add even more trees to the hood (though I am opposed to planting in the boulevard.)

See, a happy ending after all. I wonder if the new therapy center will be providing Chinese massages? But don’t complain about that to the city council, or they will call you a racist.

Why not charge MORE to ride the Trolley?

Or charge Downtown businesses a DT trolley sponsorship fee? Or do both?

It costs tens of thousands of dollars to keep the trolley running each summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and organizers are looking to the community to help foot the bill for what they say is a valuable resource for downtown businesses and tourists.

Doesn’t that say it all right there? Visitors use it to the benefit of DT businesses. I think a solution would be to charge say $5 dollars for a day pass and if you purchase something at a DT business over $25 that business would give you a $5 dollar discount with proof of your pass. Seems we don’t blink an eye to raise paratransit, why not have tourists pay? Every place I have traveled to requires me to pay for my inner city transportation. Why should SF be any different? Let’s just see how much of an impact the trolley rides really have on DT business, conduct an experiment. We may just find out people are hitching a free ride to Falls Park and not spending a dime in Downtown. If that’s case, to the auction block.

Also, whatever happened to the promise of FREE trolley rides from DT hotels and restaurants to the Events Center? Did that ever happen?

BOOM! Plop. pfoof

Darrin Smith’s batting average lately hasn’t been to good;

The city said Thursday that private investors have backed out of a planned $40 million downtown project that would have included loft apartments, retail and a boutique hotel.

“The hotel and apartment folks have informed us recently that it’s not financially feasible for them to continue,” Sioux Falls Community Development Director Darrin Smith said.

So why in the Hell would we move forward on a $10 million dollar parking ramp without a leasing tenant? Wait until we get an interested party, then build the ramp. Or better yet, don’t build a ramp at all and let private development take care of private development, and tax dollars take care of citizen projects, like maintaining the roads.

Mike and Darrin have this great desire to spend tax money on unneeded projects. The new council is probably going to be working with smoking brakes until the end of Mike’s term.

We can keep the Winter Wonderland while saving tax money


Here we go again, yet another story about the beauty and expense of Falls Park, WW light display;

“With all the people in this city who need a meal, why do they spend all that money on the lights?” Monger asked.

While Larry has a good point, I have often suggested we can have the nice light display AND it wouldn’t cost the city much more then an electric bill;

As for the display itself, While I think it is a great idea, I think it could be done differently. Other cities do similiar displays but they have businesses volunteer the expense and labor and use it as an opportunity for teambuilding around Christmas. Workers and their families of the businesses that donate volunteer their time to set up the display then the city foots the bill of the electricity. They do have sponsors, but city employees do all the set-up. In fact, mostly public works department workers from the forestry division begin assembling the display starting October 1st. Which I find ironic in itself. One time when I questioned the city about project TRIM and why the city’s forestry department just didn’t trim trees that residences couldn’t reach in the boulevard, they replied, “We don’t have enough staff or enough time.” But taking almost two months to put up Christmas lights, plenty of time for. Just imagine how many trees could be trimmed in that same time period?

Once again, the city proves it’s priorities towards citizens and the law.

I also find this ironic, since the city is always bragging about public/private partnerships, yet have no idea what the display actually costs us and seems to have NO interest in making it more economical while possibly making it better.

Hopefully the new mayor will take on the challenge of opening the light display up to local businesses.