Designing the Future of Sioux Falls

When you grow up in a place like South Dakota, you grow up with a pervasive belief that if you really want to do “something” with your life, you had better go do it somewhere else.

But what if instead of focusing on all of the things we can’t do in Sioux Falls, we were to focus on all of the things we can do?

I have lived in Sioux Falls my entire life and most of that life has been spent desperately wanting to be literally anywhere else. But recently—in one of the most difficult and most exhilarating decisions of my life—I’ve made the choice to stay.

One of the most exciting things about living in a small city is that there’s still so much room to grow. Sioux Falls has yet to really figure out who it wants to be in the world. While many bemoan the lack of opportunities in the region, they miss out on the biggest opportunity of all: to shape the future of a city.

Sioux Falls has already grown tremendously over the past few decades and I’ve watched with pride as it has developed into a more inclusive and diverse city. Nowhere has this been more apparent than downtown. What used to be one of the more run-down parts of the city has become a vibrant and lively hub for local culture and businesses.

I’ve lived and worked in various parts of the city at various times, but with MJM’s relocation downtown and my own personal relocation a block away, I’ve had the opportunity to really immerse myself in the ideas that are brewing there and what they might mean for the future of Sioux Falls.

One of the ideas that energizes me most is walkability. If you have talked to me at all in the last few months, you have probably heard how much I love being able to walk to work. ARUP recently published a pretty thorough report about the domino benefits of designing walkable cities and it’s a great read for those interested in the topic, but my benefit is a simple one: happiness.

“As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we
need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy.” –Enrique Peñalosa

Even in the bleak South Dakota midwinter, I’m still more excited for a 10-minute walk than a 20-minute drive. We’ve written on the blog before about how instances of human interaction are dwindling and I think the biggest benefit of walking is that it has made me feel more connected to the community and the people in it.

While sitting in your metal box on the highway, it’s easy to forget about all of the other people sitting in their own metal boxes. But it’s a lot harder to ignore someone when they’re walking by you on a sidewalk.

Unfortunately, downtown is one of the few places in Sioux Falls that is pedestrian-friendly, but there’s still time and space to change that. Will it happen? I don’t know. But I’m excited to find out.

And even if it doesn’t, I’m going to continue working toward building a life and a future that I can be proud of. And I wouldn’t choose to do that anywhere else.