Posted Jun 21, 2007, 12:56 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Sioux Falls
Uptown land sale delayed
Without a fix, heavy rain could flood parking garage
By Jonathan Ellis
Published: June 20, 2007
The city of Sioux Falls has delayed the sale of a piece of land slated for a key downtown development, citing concerns about drainage problems.
The City Council was scheduled to approve the sale Monday night, but city officials asked that the item be delayed until July 16. The land is the first of three parcels the city is selling to the Uptown at Falls Park development group, a consortium of local developers planning a project between Second and Fifth streets adjacent to Phillips Avenue.
The project's first phase calls for restoring historic buildings at Fourth and Main Avenue and building two six-story structures at Fourth and Phillips. These buildings would have a number of residential units as well as underground parking.
But the underground parking could be problematic. In recent weeks, city engineers have found that the city's runoff collection system in that area isn't compatible with how the Uptown group has designed its underground parking.
"There's a substantial amount of rainwater that comes down to the intersection of Fourth and Main," said Mark Cotter, the city's director of Public Works.
The city is promoting underground parking in downtown developments, city planner Erica Beck said. But in this case, the underground parking garages could be flooded in heavy rainstorms.
There are solutions, Cotter said. Each has its own challenges and price tags.
The city could install more underground runoff conduit to move water to the Big Sioux River. The area already is serviced by a 72-inch pipe and a box culvert, Cotter said. Under this scenario, there could be problems with bedrock.
The city also could install a storm sewer pumping station that would collect water in the area and force it to the river through conduit. That could prove to be an expensive option, however, and one that would be necessary only during major storm events.
There's also another variable. The site is adjacent to an area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Brownfields property because of contamination that occurred in its previous life as an industrial site.
That could complicate measures to fix the drainage issue.
"This is all a fairly new thing for everyone in the city because it's our first Brownfields property," Beck said.
Another solution, Cotter said, is for Uptown officials to redesign their buildings.
Earlier this year, Uptown officials planned a groundbreaking on the first phase for this summer. It wasn't clear Tuesday how this delay would affect their schedule.
Les Kinstad, one of the Uptown partners, said the delay could push back the groundbreaking, which he called ceremonial.
"I think we targeted a summer groundbreaking, but I think everyone understands that some of this stuff has to slide a little bit," he said.
Kinstad said his group and the city don't want any unanswered questions hanging before the deal goes through.
"There's an old saying: Measure twice and cut once. That's kind of where we are here," he said.
In the meantime, the renovation of existing buildings on Main continues. The Tri-State Creamery building is expected to open July 15 with two floors of office and retail, while demolition work has started on the Larson Square, which will have two floors of residential lofts and one floor of commercial space.
Last summer, a city committee picked the Uptown group to develop the three blocks that lead from downtown to Falls Park. The group offered to buy the land from the city for $2.6 million. Its proposal included plans for 350,000 square feet of office and retail space, 500 residential units, 1,500 parking spaces and a hotel. The $150 million development was expected to take as long as a decade to complete.
Reach reporter Jonathan Ellis at 605-575-3629.
At least they realized this now, and not after the buildings were built
Kicking it in Sioux Falls