Playing Catch-up

South Dakota may be best known for Mount Rushmore, but the state also has a bustling downtown in its largest city, Sioux Falls, with a population of 170,000 and gaining 3,000 residents a year, says Darren Smith, the city’s director of community development. Many are young professionals or empty-nesters, relocating for the same reasons as their counterparts in other urban cores—to be able to walk to offices, restaurants, and shopping and use cars less often.

Brownfield to Beauty

Downtown residential development in Sioux Falls had lagged that of other cities, despite the central presence of beautiful Falls Park. But things picked up after city leaders worked to attract more commercial activity. Hospitals, banks, hotels, and others moved in. Craig Lloyd, CEO of Lloyd Co., made the $2 million, winning bid for a city-owned brownfield, using tax increment financing to improve the site. He rehabbed two buildings, demolished another, and built three apartment buildings. 

Historic + Hip

Because Lloyd first tested prices for the rehabbed buildings, he thought he could get $1.35 a square foot, the highest rent downtown. To do so, he knew he had to offer a distinct, quality product. He hired local architecture firm VanDeWalle Associates, which designed a four-story low-rise with underground parking to fit the scale of nearby landmark buildings, incorporating historic brick and clapboard, modern corrugated-metal siding, aluminum balconies, and colorful accents.

Lofty Aspirations

Inside, to match the exterior, the team chose a “soft” loft aesthetic with 12- to 14-foot ceilings, ganged windows, exposed ductwork, dark cabinets, and rustic gray walls. Quartz counters, ceramic tile, and faux-hardwood floors offer a luxurious look. The large, modern lobby features a fireplace, fitness center, and outdoor seating with fire pit. The architects pushed the façade close to the street to make the balconies feel like front stoops. They also speced wider-than-usual hallways and installed murals of the city.

Leasing Marvel

The Phillips filled up quickly—80 percent of the one- and two-bedroom units were pre-leased by the opening in August—and the 700- to 1,850-square-foot units are now 95 percent occupied. The rents range from $895 to $2,960. As a result of its growth, the city has become more competitive in attracting young professionals, says Jason Dennison of Downtown Sioux Falls Inc. He and others point to the city’s foresight in cleaning up brownfields and making continual improvements.