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Ski Yankton, Dine on Meridian Bridge: Riverfront Ideas!

Madison's downtown development task force should take a look at the conversation Yankton reporter Nathan Johnson and entrepreneur Ben Hanten are promoting in Yankton. On his blog An Inland Voyage, Nathan Johnson has published three posts this week on great ideas for boosting economic and cultural activity in Yankton's lovely downtown.

First, Johnson spotlights South Dakota-obsessed British author Fraser Harrison's suggestion to build on the attraction of the Meridian Bridge by revamping its already beautiful riverfront to draw more business:

My suggestion would be to commission a report from a consultant with the relevant experience into the possibility of developing the entire riverfront from the new bridge east to the empty land beyond The Landing, including the five blocks that lie behind and their great old industrial buildings that are just crying out to be utilized.

The plan should embrace in a single vision hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, wine bars (The Landing is a great model), stores and so forth – all places to tempt visitors to come and enjoy themselves and spend their money.

The riverside strip of park is already very attractive, with its kiosks and picnic areas and the territorial capitol house, and I think that style should be perpetuated in the new development, in that it should have plenty of walking spaces, sitting spaces, spaces for small-scale street entertainment (in the summer obviously), spaces for outdoor vendors, and so forth. And what better to complete this resort than my replica river paddleboat, a floating destination in itself? [Fraser Harrison, quoted by Nathan Johnson, "The Ravings Of An Outsider? Thoughts On The Development Of Yankton’s Riverfront," An Inland Voyage, 2013.06.19]

In his next post, Johnson excerpts numerous local suggestions for downtown development generated in a Facebook discussion started by Ben Hanten. Among the ideas from his fellow Yanktonians:

  • support development downtown instead of out on the north edge on empty, undeveloped space
  • extend recreational trails
  • turn the riverfront water plant into an interactive educational center
  • develop better housing and higher-paying jobs (the writer contends those basic factors are the real draws to any town; good houses and good wages provide the basic market support for local retail and entertainment)
  • build a restaurant on top of the Meridian Bridge (holy cow! Winnipeg has Chez Sophie, an Alsatian-French restaurant, on top of the Esplanade Riel; Wikipedia says the Esplanade Riel is "the only bridge with a restaurant in North America." Opportunity knocks!)
  • build a farmers market shelter by the river

Johnson follows up with a separate post dedicated to ideas for the new water plant that Yankton needs. Johnson cites beautiful examples of water plants designed to include public parks, educational facilities, and even a ski slope.

There's no way of telling whether the ideas unearthed by Johnson's and Hanten's conversations will influence Yankton's decision-makers. And porting those ideas to Madison and other towns in need of downtown development won't work perfectly; after all, Madison lacks a stunning downtown riverfront and bridge (wait a minute: how about a restaurant on top of the new water tower?).

But I'm always thrilled to see citizens use the Web to have serious conversations about making their communities better. Mayors, planners, local booster, read Johnson's blog posts and join that conversation!


  1. Barbara 2013.06.21

    The restaurant on the bridge in Winnipeg for the past seven years was a Salisbury House - all-day breakfast, coffee-house, hamburger (Nip) joint. Sals, a Winnipeg institution, was started by a traveling actor from Nebraska during the Depression.
    Not on, but adjacent to a pedestrian bridge over the Red River is another iconic Winnipeg the

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.06.21

    We ate at that Salisbury House in 2009! Fine meal, and lots of fun waving back at the boaters sailing beneath us. Have you been to Chez Sophie, Barbara (either the new bridge location or their original French Quarter spot)?

  3. Barbara 2013.06.21

    ... another summertime landmark - the BDI (Bridge Drive-In) ice-cream stand. Yankton could do something like this. But beware the cost of plumbing a bridge facility.

    "The Canadian Taxpayers Federation gave (Mayor) Murray a Golden Sow Award in 2003 for 'flushing' taxpayers' dollars away on a 'million-dollar toilet.' (An unrepentant Murray defended the bridge and the cool new tourist attraction, and vowed to put the award up in his bathroom.)"

  4. Barbara 2013.06.21

    Yes at the original Chez Sophie in the dead of winter - délicieux!

  5. Chris Francis 2013.06.21

    Here's a starter list for Downtown Madison to consider:

    Extend the pedestrian areas downtown by extending the corners of intersections outward, and thus reducing the traffic flow to just 2 single lanes at each intersection. That would greatly limit the amount of pedestrian exposure crossing the streets from the existing 5 lanes of traffic (2 lanes of parking, 3 for traffic)

    Install and encourage non-car based downtown traffic by installing bike racks, providing more seating opportunities, shaded nooks, generally promoting walking to downtown from within the community. Another thing to consider is to improve the pedestrian access from North of 2nd Street by incorporating more pedestrian operated crosswalks.

    Invest in Library Park downtown, and look towards expanding the park, perhaps South. The park should highlight the neglected stage, perhaps adding a water feature, a small pond with a fountain and fish, especially something to consider along the property adjourning the west side of Washington Avenue, thus creating a better entrance to downtown from the Eastside. Then add a weekend summer concert series to the park.

    Add center of the roadway boulevards along Center Street and SE 1st Street, much like along Egan Avenue, again, it's a simple visual component, and again, cuts the roadway exposure to pedestrians, which is a key element to successful downtowns.

    Invest in the existing rail-line by running a train during the summer, and during the holiday season, from downtown Sioux Falls to Madison and back. That's the best chance to infuse outside tourism dollars downtown, and something for merchants to build a business around, much like Hill City in many respects.

    Alright, add to that.

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