Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goin’ East Bank

C N A Surety formerly locally owned Western Surety made it official Tuesday it is relocating its offices to a new location on at the Schoeneman lumber yard site on the East Bank of the Big Sioux River on East Eighth Street.

Coincidentally the City of Sioux Falls this week commenced a street project renovation on East Eighth Street from Phillips Avenue going east across the Big Sioux River. The construction work includes utilities improvement, road resurfacing and streetscape (don’t you just love that word?) improvements. Presumably streetscape improvements mean center medians with trees and liberal use of the red brick that is finding its way into other downtown projects. Streetscaping improvements I assume will be the same or compatible to the median and sidewalks on the south side of the Holiday Inn and the Main Library on Eighth Street.

The effects of these two developments will be interesting and impact Downtown in several varied ways.

In the most positive way it sets up development on the East Bank of the river downtown. The new Lloyd Properties development (C N A Building) will be an anchor property on Eighth Street that mirrors the Cherapa Place property at Sixth Street and the river. Both Cherapa Place and the C N A building are being developed down to the riverbank. Also in the planning stage is a City Amphitheatre on the East Bank at the riverbank just south of Cherapa Place. The City bonded for these “river greenway improvements” in July of 2009 with the sale of Quality of Life II Bonds.

These two blocks on the River between Sixth and Eighth Streets will become the Gateway to the East Bank. I do not personally know Jeff Scherschligt, President of Howalt Mc Dowell Insurance, and the mover and shaker of Cherapa but have heard rumors that he envisions an active River Walk on the East Bank than might include gondola rides on the river.

With the development of the Schoeneman property the last remaining trophy parcel along the river bank is the Sioux Steel / Rysdon property north of Sixth Street on the West Side of the River. This property not only abuts the River but the primo property east of Phillips Avenue leading to Sioux Falls’ crown jewel – Falls Park.

Worth noting – The “Argus Leader” reported the Schoeneman property also might be the sight for another commercial property or a hotel.

The effect will be to make Phillips Avenue a little bit more of a shopping, dining, and entertainment district and less of a commercial district. Consider that moving 400 or 500 employees out of the Western Surety Building leaves another major downtown looking for tenants (Midland Life building and recent closure of the DME / Canadian Pacific Office at the former I B M Building on the riverbank at Eighth and Phillips).

Sidebar - It was rumored some months ago that Sioux Falls City government who needs more office space was negotiating for the purchase of the Midland National Life building. However negotiations ended without completing a deal. Will the City now consider purchasing the Western Surety Building at Ground Zero (Ninth and Phillips -just 2 blocks east City Hall)?

What happens to the Up Town development? (on Main Avenue north of Fifth Street) – It seems to me, barring a major tenant being found for one of the properties on Main Avenue abutting the development ground west of Phillips Avenue leading to Falls Park, development has been pushed back on the calendar. These properties seemed particularly “hot” prior to the recession because of the prospects of using the land on the west side of Philips north of Sixth Street. With the East Bank opening up to more offices and ultimately, hotels, dining, and entertainment perhaps Up Town can best be used for Housing and boutique shopping. This area too could be used for burgeoning growth of the County and City government Campus.

Much of this is speculation on my part and will not be completed for perhaps ten to fifteen years but the good news is: Development is happening and those C N A jobs will not be leaving the Queen City. Going East perhaps but not too far!

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