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Rail Yard Development Discussed By Public

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After several years of controversy, the Sioux Falls Rail Yard Redevelopment Project is one step closer to being finalized. In a meeting held Wednesday night, city, state, and federal leaders gathered to present the environmental assessment of the rail yard’s redevelopment.

The environmental assessment essentially lays out the pros and cons of removing the rail yard and tracks, which are west of the Great Northern Depot in Downtown Sioux Falls. And for the most part the small group of people that attended Wednesday night’s meeting are just happy one more step to in this very long process is almost done.

 These tracks that have directed trains into Downtown Sioux Falls for more than 100 years are one step closer to being removed.

“My biggest concern is that we don't do it, because this opportunity exists. And I mean we finally found a compromise after seven or eight years,” said Jeff Scherschligt, Managing Partner of Cherapa Place
Cherapa Place sits next to some of the 10 acres of land the city of Sioux Falls has proposed to buy from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF, and redevelop once the tracks are removed.

“We bought our property at Cherapa Place with this already in the works in 2005. So we've been kind of surprised this has taken this long because we thought it was a done deal,” Scherschligt said.

And now that the environmental assessment has been released and is up for public comment that means the proposed project is close to wrapping up this stage, and begin the next.
“We can’t start negotiating on the purchase price, we can’t start the final design, and we can’t start construction until the environmental assessment is done,” said Joshua Peterson, Principal Engineer for Sioux Falls

Peterson said the assessment shows more good than bad.

“There are very few impacts that we are going to have to address,” said Peterson.

Among them are removing historic properties, as well as hazardous materials. The railroad tracks and the warehouse on 6th Street and 8th Street are considered historic. But since they are a part of the removal plan in order to redevelop the area, Peterson said it’s OK. And the city has a plan to preserve what will be demolished.

“We are going to take a lot of pictures to get recordation, so that people 20 years from now can say this is how the railroad looked in Sioux Falls,” said Peterson.

In regards to the hazardous material, the more than a century of train traffic moving up and down the tracks have left some waste material behind. But Peterson said once it’s all removed, the developer will scrape off the top six inches of soil and replace it.

As for Scherschligt, he said it’s time to retire these tracks, and build something that honors the Sioux Falls that stands today.

Scherschligt said, “We hope to maybe build the tallest building in South Dakota that would honor the River Greenway and all that we want to do here.”

The public has until Sept. 4 to submit comments on the assessment, which can be found online on the city's website . After that, the assessment will be given to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.  

The proposed redevelopment will be paid for by the $35 million the federal government allocated to the project in 2005. City leaders said they hope to have the land purchased from BNSF by the end of year so they can begin the redevelopment.

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