When we think about recruiting Minnesotans to move to South Dakota, we often think about selling Minnesota's city dwellers on the merits of rural life. Fresh air! Big skies! More chance of dying in an acc—
Ahem. But that shouldn't be our whole pitch. We can find plenty of rural and suburban Minnesotans who want the convenience of downtown living. That Sioux Falls paper brags about its own resurgent downtown:
When Sarah Carnes moved from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls a year ago, she knew she wanted to live downtown.
“I liked the idea of walking to work, especially coming from Minneapolis, where rush hour was taking years off my life,” she said.
The 27-year-old, who is chief operating officer for the online marketing company 9 Clouds, likes being part of the downtown community and having restaurants and shopping at her doorstep. It’s an exciting time to be downtown, she said.
...“I came from a ’70s, fabulous apartment in Minneapolis. It’s definitely an upgrade for me,” she said.
She knows she could have gotten by with cheaper rent elsewhere in Sioux Falls, but she pays the same price as she did in the Twin Cities and said living downtown is worth the cost [J.L. Atyeo, "Living in the Heart of Sioux Falls," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.07.28].
Did you catch that last line? Quality of life isn't just about lower cost. People are willing to pay a price for amenities that free them from commuting. South Dakota shouldn't market itself as a haven for cheapskates.
Neither is quality of life about endless growth. Jay and Lian Zea improved their lives by moving downtown to smaller digs:
Realtor Jay Zea and his wife, Lian, have lived in every type of home there is. But when they downsized, it was to a two-bedroom, two-bath loft in the historic Carpenter Building on Phillips Avenue.
“We’ve been here five years. We just can’t visualize where we’d want to go,” Lian Zea said.
The Zeas love to be in the city’s center, within walking distance of restaurants, entertainment and shopping. They like to watch parades and summer events from their bay windows that face Phillips Avenue.
“It’s very convenient. It’s a very different style than living in suburbia,” Jay Zea said [Atyeo, 2013.07.28].
Whatever size loft or apartment or condo folks like, getting them to live downtown is essential to getting businesses to thrive downtown. Surburan design assumes that people will drive everywhere. Good downtown design recognizes that people enjoy not having to crank up the Model T to get a beer or a book or a box of raisin bran. Develop quality apartments in and around your downtown, and you build in a market for downtown businesses:
“You’ve got to have housing use before you can get some of those things to follow,” said Craig Lloyd, CEO of Lloyd Companies, which has three downtown residential projects in the works as well as a hotel.
In the past two years, 38 new businesses have opened, according to numbers from Downtown Sioux Falls Inc.
“If you don’t have a strong downtown, you don’t have a strong city,” Lloyd said [Atyeo, 2013.07.28].
I haven't heard Madison's downtown improvement committee talking about any residential projects yet. They should take committee members on a field trip to Sioux Falls, visit the Carnes and Zea apartments, have lunch on Phillips, then bring their ideas back to Madison. Downtown Sioux Falls is an excellent example of how residential development can be the egg to hatch more business development.
(p.s.: None of the downtowners interviewed cited gun ownership or open carry as major factors in their enjoyment of the downtown lifestyle.)