The BUSINESS JOURNAL recently wrote an article on downtown development and quoted the mayor at an October 22nd groundbreaking ceremony of the CNA project saying, "A lot of good things are happening in the city's core, and there will be more to come." The article went on about other projects unfolding in the downtown area, all of which are occurring because of small business owners and development companies, not because of City Hall.
Michael Bender of Bender Commercial Real Estate Services said the downtown area is thriving but he also said this: “What’s not happening is those darn railroad tracks. We need to get those relocated. When you get those relocated, you’re going to see a lot more development.” Now that is a project where the mayor and his administration play a huge leadership role.
In the Mayor’s first Ask the Mayor segment on Citilink/Channel 16 one of his priorities coming into office was the railroad relocation project. He said, “We believe strongly that we can get that accomplished pretty quickly and we need to. It’s money sitting out there that can help us grow jobs, grow the economy as well as get us prepared for development in downtown Sioux Falls, so let’s take advantage of it.” His administration is responsible for spearheading the Sioux Falls Railroad Relocation and Environmental Assessment Project.
I checked on the city’s website and it appears that nothing has progressed on this project since early 2009. The year 2010 is almost over and it doesn’t seem anything is coming out of City Hall on this project. What’s the holdup? What is the Mayor doing to move things forward with the SDDOT and the FHWA? This project started in 2006, for goodness sakes.
Mayor Huether made some comment on the first Ask the Mayor program about not knowing why former Mayor Munson hadn’t got this done but that it was a priority for him. He said it should have been done a few years ago because it will develop Sioux Falls, develop downtown and that we needed to take advantage of the dollars by the Federal government. He said he tasked Cotter and his team to get this done.
I looked at that study on the City's website and it said one of the key advantages to moving the existing rail yard from downtown Sioux Falls was that the removal of the rail and ties associated with the existing switching operations would create opportunities for redevelopment. The study said it would provide a better use of this vital and growing part of the city and it would create new opportunities for Sioux Falls residents to shop, work and play in the downtown area.
All I can say is actions speak louder than words. The Mayor has abandoned the downtown area as a site for the new Event Center. That action alone doesn't support his past statements about his commitment to developing downtown. No action appears to be happening on the Railroad Relocation Project. Just what is the Mayor talking about when he says one of his priorities is stimulating economic development and jobs? I guess he means everywhere else but downtown.