The survey says: Restaurants and bars at the Riverline District

An online survey of Sioux Falls residents asked what amenities they would like to see on 9 acres of land east of downtown. Input and planning for the site continue.

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Richard Murphy, a producer for CityLink, directs the broadcast of Mayor Paul TenHaken's State of the City address on Monday, April 17, 2023, at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.
Patrick Lalley / Sioux Falls Live

SIOUX FALLS — The results are in from an online survey about what to build at the proposed Riverline District east of downtown Sioux Falls.

The No. 1 pick from a list of amenities was restaurants and bars.

Nearly 1,600 people completed the survey and 1,081 of those said they would like to see restaurants and bars in the area near 10th Street and Cliff Avenue.

That was followed by a sports stadium (853), park and open space (814) and outdoor event space (719).

Residents could pick multiple amenities so the total choices exceed the number of respondents.


The results were released as part of Mayor Paul TenHaken’s State of the City address on Monday, April 17.

“That’s a high level of engagement,” TenHaken said. “People were very engaged.”

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The site map for the proposed Riverline District in Sioux Falls released during an announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.
Contributed / CO-OP Architecture

City and business development officials announced in January that they had purchased the option on about nine acres of land along the Big Sioux River. A building on the site is currently used by the South Dakota Department of Human Services and other agencies, which will move to a planned state office complex.

The online survey was the first step for organizers of the district to determine what the site should be. In addition to the choice of amenities, Sioux Falls residents could make suggestions about what they’d like to see happen.

City government and business leaders opened the discussion about the next big downtown development asking for resident's opinions.

TenHaken said several themes emerged, including:

  • Mixed use: There were many references to mixed use, with examples such as the Riverwalk in San Antonio and the Power and Light District in Kansas City. Ten percent of the comments referenced the need for parking. “We are still a very car-centric community in Sioux Falls,” TenHaken said. “People like to drive to their locations.”
  • Year round opportunities for recreation: “We just came through a long, long winter and those winters get long when there is a lack of indoor recreation space by which to do things,” TenHaken said.
  • Gentrification: The area around the proposed district includes several social service agencies such as the Bishop Dudley House homeless shelter and The Banquet, which serves meals to people in need. “People want to make sure that we are not pushing out critical services by expanding our downtown east,” the mayor said.
  • Housing: Using the space for housing was mentioned only 26 times, which was lower than expected.
  • Stadium: One of the potential uses is a sports stadium. The survey didn’t ask about specific teams or sports, but the owners of the Sioux Falls Canaries have been vocal about their desire for the city to build a new baseball stadium. It’s a polarizing topic, the mayor said.
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Lynn Keller-Forbes (left), co-chair of the Friends of the Riverline District, and Mayor Paul Ten Haken outline progress on development of about nine acres of land east of downtown on Monday, April 17, 2023.
Patrick Lalley / Sioux Falls Live

“The thought of putting a stadium at the Riverline District is being met with the hottest of hots and the coldest of colds,” he said. “We are looking at this very closely. If we put a stadium in our downtown, does it create that mixed-use development, does it energize downtown, does it bring the sales tax we would need to pay for investment like that? Green space is great but it doesn't bring any revenue. What’s the balance between green space, stadium, mixed use?”

The Friends of the Riverline District is the group that was formed to manage the process of exploring options. The group, through the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, purchased an option to buy the land.

Riverline District_State of the City_April 17 2023 (2) by Patrick Lalley on Scribd

Business and community groups announced coalition to purchase land adjacent to Drake Springs Pool.

That option runs out in August of 2024, said Lynne Keller-Forbes, co-chair of the group, who outlined the next steps as part of the mayor’s presentation.


The online survey was just the first step in the process of narrowing uses and moving forward with a plan, she said.

The group raised $250,000 initially for the land and other costs.

In March, they asked local banks for $10,000 each to pay for an economic impact study and continued financing of the project. That effort raised $110,000 toward a $200,000 goal, she said.

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A conceptual drawing of a potential design of the Riverline District in Sioux Falls announced Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. The committee leading the project is taking public input on what residents would like to on the site.
Contributed / CO-OP Architecture

The Friends of the Riverline District has hired a Chicago firm to conduct the economic impact study, which should start providing results in late July.

The group has also met with potential partners such backers of soccer, the Canaries, the Parks and Recreation Department and Experience Sioux Falls.

Backers of the project near downtown Sioux Falls want resident's input.

“We say this a lot, the cake is not baked,” she said. “We really are just trying to go through the process and envisioning with people, what do we think would be the best use of this property. It’s not cheap and we do want to make sure we have (a return on investment) on that.”

The real focus, however, has to be the land and how to pay for it, she said.

“It's not very often that you have the opportunity to put nine acres contiguous to your downtown under contract,” said Keller-Forbes, who is the executive director of the South Eastern Council of Governments.


TenHaken said the survey was just the “first blush” of what the community wants to develop. But some broad themes have developed.

“They want to see a district,” he said. “A place where if your friends or family or someone in the community can come to Sioux Falls and say hey we should go downtown to the Riverline District tonight because there’s a lot of stuff to do down there.”

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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