Simplified: City Councilors on Tuesday shared some general preferences related to future development of the unfinished downtown parking ramp. But the vibe was largely left at, "We're open to pretty much anything, as long as the process works this time."

Why it matters

  • This parking ramp has sat unfinished for three years after the last planned development – Village on the River – failed. That project ultimately ended in a lawsuit settlement and cost the city $500,000.
  • The city has also already invested substantially into this parking ramp. It cost more than $20 million to build, plus the costs of litigation and the settlement.
  • Now, as councilors look to the future, they want to keep all options on the table when it comes to what type of development occupies the site. That includes housing, retail, a corporate headquarters, a hotel, some type of mixed-use building.
  • And, it also includes the option to sell the entire site to a private developer – that is as long as the project actually sees some follow-through this time.
"We owe it to ourselves and most notably to the citizens that we really know that the person we’re working with has the financial wherewithal and the character to pull this off," Councilor Greg Neitzert said.

What options are on the table, then?

It's too soon to say, really. It'll come down to what types of projects developers ultimately pitch to the council.

That said, Erica Beck, chief of staff to Mayor Paul TenHaken, presented the council with some questions to consider before opening the door for developers to submit proposals for the site.

  • Beck asked the council its thoughts on potential financing options open to developers (think: tax-increment financing, as an example).
  • She also asked councilors if they'd be willing to consider selling the property entirely.
"I think that you guys should work with every lever that you have," Councilor Alex Jensen said, referring both to financing options and a possible sale.

In addition to the questions, Beck shared an early look at a downtown market analysis conducted as part of the Downtown 2035 planning process.

  • We'll see the full analysis in October, but early highlights of it showed room for growth downtown in housing options, office space and (at a smaller rate) more retail growth.

What else did councilors have to say?

"This is the most developable structure in all of South Dakota at this time," Jensen said.

Councilor Marshall Selberg added that developers can count on "open minds all the way around" when it comes to the council considering possible options.

Neitzert wants to see the market dictate the type of business(es) that ultimately end up on the site, though he would like to see the front of the building "activated," i.e. engaging to the public walking by.

"I’d like to see something that’s obviously a reasonable size," he added, noting that the ramp is built to hold a several-story building atop the existing structure.

Councilor Curt Soehl also agreed to keep an open mind, even when it comes to a potential sale of the property.

"I don't know if there’s anybody out there willing to Venmo us $75 million for a parking ramp, but I think we should open that up," Soehl said. "It all depends on who controls the parking and how that looks."

And what happens next?

Beck will be back in front of the council on Oct. 11 to talk about the timeline for announcing that the city is ready to accept proposals from developers.

  • She'll also talk about the timeline and what the process will look like.