What Do Yanktonians Have To Say About Yankton’s Future Development?

What do the people of Yankton (or formerly of Yankton) have to say about community development?

Yesterday, I shared a letter that British author Fraser Harrison wrote to Mayor Nancy Wenande.

Today, I want to delve into a discussion that downtown bar owner Ben Hanten began on Facebook last week after meeting with Fraser. Anyone who knows Ben knows that he is passionate about the development of Yankton.

Here is what he initially posted:

Topic of discussion for Yanktonians and those formerly of Yankton: There is a British author named Fraser Harrison writing a book about Yankton. Yesterday I was interviewed by him about the future of business for the city. We talked on many topics, but I think it’s always interesting to hear what outsiders think. He feels an energy here that he thinks will lead to something big. He thinks we’re on the cusp. More than anything, though, he thinks our river and lake are the assets that thousands of cities would die for, but we’re not capitalizing on that to scale.

So are we on the cusp? Is there anything we’re really missing for river and lake development?

This invitation for discussion was met with more than 30 responses. I won’t post them all here, but will instead cherry pick some of them. (While I’ve in some cases not included an entire post, I haven’t edited them, so there are probably some grammatical errors. Also, because I didn’t ask each of these individuals for permission to post their thoughts, I haven’t included their names.)

The last thing that Yankton needs to do is spend money at the human service center corner beyond a huge track of advertising space getting people past that corner. Why do we want people to stop there? By developing that corner we are screaming at people STOP RIGHT HERE!!! DO NOT ADVANCE PAST WAL MART!!! Silly right? Am I missing the point? Why not spend that money in our downtown? Why not actively recruit restaurants & small businesses for our established areas before we worry about creating another empty area. The North entryway will take care of itself. Wal Mart and Menards are attractions, they are reasons why people come to Yankton. What are we doing to get people to go beyond those two spots?

I’m tired of hearing too that Brookings has a college and interstate or that Mitchell has the interstate. Downtown Brookings caters to the townspeople WAY more than the college kids and it is a vibrant living amazing creature. Mitchell had the interstate and a big bird feeder for years and was dying until local leaders took initiative and created something special not just on the interstate around Cabellas but downtown. We have WAY more to offer than Mitchell but quite frankly I would tell friends and relative to shop and live there WAY before suggesting Yankton. How sad is that statement.

Yankton is too busy being reactive instead of being proactive. The townspeople and by proxy her leaders feed into existing notions and arguments instead of making definitive decisions and creating for the residents.

There is an amazing middle aged group of people that are spending their money out of town…what effort has been made to keep that money here?

I’m passionate about this all…I don’t have all the answers…but I guess I’d rather see something tried…even if it fails than continue on the death trail the town is on now.

OK, so my friend Shane Gerlach said I could use anything he had written. Those thoughts above are his, and I can assure you that he is indeed PASSIONATE about all this.


I have lived here since 1999 and been in and out of Yankton as a weekender/vacationer for decades before that. No question that the lake remains underdeveloped on both sides, but that is starting to gain steam (the renovated Meridian bridge, the new development, shops and restaurants in and around the lake, etc. all stand testament to that). Quite frankly, the state has done a poor job IMHO in handling its lease rights, especially with respect to the restaurant at the lake. Owner turnover and inconsistency are a product of an impossible lease situation. Between that and getting the BY Water situation resolved, the lake development would likely continue to gain momentum.

I tend to agree that commercial development in downtown Yankton is the harder nut to crack. Similar to what has been done for housing, I would like to see a survey done comparing this town to Mitchell, Brookings, and other class one municipalities and see what the surveyors would recommend based on our unique resources (river, bridge, ballparks, available space, lack of coffee shops, bookstores or other businesses that exist in other like cities but not here). YAPG and Chamber should be resources for such an endeavor.


I don’t have time to write out all my thoughts on this topic, but am happy to share links to a few of the sites I use as professional resources, including a link to a video that should really inspire you. Here’s the Project for Public Spaces <PPS> website: http://www.pps.org/training/streets-as-places/ AND here’s a link to the AIA’s “Communities by Design” initiative, of which I’m a member: http://www.aia.org/about/initiatives/AIAS075265?dvid=&recspec=AIAS075265 / and finally, here’s a video about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. http://www.indyculturaltrail.org/images-videos.html TOTALLY inspiring! Why not turn Walnut Street downtown into a cultural trail? An extension of the Meridian Bridge trail and plaza. Ultimately – perhaps – it could connect to GAR Hall, Memorial Park, and eventually extend the Brokaw Trail to include the HSC campus? // Designing for people instead of cars, forcing ourselves to develop more densely, the Power of 10 <you’ll have to research that> and making the journey part of the destination. It’s all attainable, but it takes a massive collective effort and embracing new ideas. <I’ll have to edit this if the links above get all garbled up> As for the water plant … if the water plant is best/easiest to leave along the riverfront, then DO SOMETHING COOL WITH IT! Turn *it* into a children’s museum … “come experience how our water system works” … SOMETHING to make it a feature, make it interactive … that’s how I’d approach it as a designer. It wouldn’t be easier or cheaper, but it would combine our two goals // clean water and a more vibrant riverfront // into one innovative project instead of looking at one as detrimental to the other.


Retail growth is driven by population, and population is driven by jobs and housing. Both are two things Yankton needs to continue to work on. However constant finger pointing and unwillingness to pay for what is needed will slow yanktons growth. Issues such as the schools. water treatment plants, and B-Y water surrounding the town will stifle growth in the big picture. If you want retail growth we need to work on the other factors first.


Our downtown has wonderful retail, we do need more but its hard to compete with online and Sioux Falls when our community is so small and the demographics lean more towards a higher retirement population with a fixed income. I think we need more economic development, more better paying jobs to draw more families here. I also would like people to be more proactive, many times people shoot down an idea before even thinking about the concept presented. Its disheartening to the presenter. Sometimes the idea won’t work in its present vision, but could work if tweaked and molded to fit the community. However, before the tweaking can begin, the discussion is closed by saying oh we tried that in 1940 or 50 didn’t work. I’ve listen to some of the wildest ideas that were so cool, id love to see them tried. Perhaps the answer is a group of people who can inspire, think and listen to those who have the crazy ideas. Not sure if any of you have been to Dallas, a place I love to go to is Deep Ellum. here’s a link http://deepellumtexas.com/ Its a crazy fun place.. So I too have the crazies, my crazy idea is to have a water slide or just a slide attached to the top of the chimney of the brewery building…How many places can say you say you jumped off a 100 year old chimney? Would you do it? How many would drive hundreds of miles to? Trust me the view from 100 ft up is spectacular. Crazy? Of course it is, Fun? yeah! Possible? who knows?


Build a glass covered Restaurant on the top section of the Meridian bridge. Imagine the unique beauty of that dining experience!

All the discussion prompted another post from Hanten:

My previous post on Yankton generated a ton of discussion and good ideas. So how do we move the needle? I’d like us to find two things we agree on and work hard on just that. Avoid all other distractions.

In addition to some calls for a gathering to discuss ideas, the post generated some more thoughts:

I didn’t post on your last Yankton question so I’ll put my thought here. I think it would help the downtown to have a farmer’s market/vendor’s market in shelter #7 (the far west shelter by the Capitol Replica parking lot). It would give the market a unique feel as it would be right on the banks of the river. I think it would be neat to replace the current shelter that is there with a farmer’s market styled shelter that is again more unique than the plain shelter that sits there currently. It could be made larger and keep a drive way around it so vendor’s could drive up to drop off their products and again drive up to it after the market closes to pick up the left overs. I think it can be made to be easily accessible for vendors and yet more open-market feeling than the parking lot at the mall. The location currently has electricity and water. Also, it has a large parking lot that is ADA accessible.
If the market was open on Tuesday late afternoons and evenings, it would tie-in with the community band concerts and the pop concerts at the Riverside Amphitheater on Tuesday nights at 8:00pm. On Thursday nights, it could be held and have that as a night that the businesses downtown stay open later to promote foot traffic in the area as people can shop both at the stores downtown and at the farmer’s market.
The market could also be open on Saturday mornings. The businesses downtown open at 10am so people could shop at the market prior to 10am and then head to the stores. Also, other activities coud be planned in the park on Saturday mornings to coincide with the market to help drive foot traffic at the park and in the downtown area.
The National Park Service is currently utilizing the Capitol Replica during the week and one Saturday a month in the summer. More planning could be done with NPS personnel or other groups to have activities in the area that help drive traffic both to the farmer’s market and to the stores/restaurants downtown.
Having an open-air market on the banks of the river would build upon the community’s river identity and tie-in with the buy local, buy fresh, buy healthy movements that are being promoted nationwide.


One of the problems with being at the river it doesn’t help current businesses. To far away for people to walk. The reason why walnut street was developed at the same time as the bridge plaza was to encourage people to walk to the downtown and That’s only a block. A good example is when the Lewis and Clark exhibit was at the riverfront event center one year during riverboat days. The government spent tons of money on advertising promoting, only a tiny fraction attended a free exhibit, to far away from the action. Build from the core out (downtown) out. With rising water costs to residents,( some may pay 40 dollars more a month for a family of 4 as the quoted averages include a mass number of retires who use very little) businesses will need as much help as they can to survive. The money people spend in stores/businesses will now be spent on water. Spend/develop where you can get the best ROI for the money, build sales tax and encourage spending to stores/businesses.

That’s a lot of ideas to chew on for anyone interested in Yankton’s future development. Obviously, people are passionate about the community. The trick is to get enough people to agree on some core tenets and move ahead with those. As Ben and others have urged, I hope this discussion continues and produces some concrete actions.

In my next post (which I hope to post later today) on this general topic, I want to focus a bit more on the possibility of a new water treatment plant being built in Riverside Park.

2 thoughts on “What Do Yanktonians Have To Say About Yankton’s Future Development?

  1. I just spent 2 days in Pierre and marvel at how much better developed and thriving their downtown is compared to ours. Yes, I know there is state money, but their population is close to ours and the Yankton lake visitors are far superior to Oahe in terms of numbers, foot traffic, and economic footprints. Yet, look at their children’s museum, their hotels, their mall, their dealerships (four? really) the number of businesses and restaurants downtown, and it just strikes me as odd. I understand why Yankton is not fairly compared to Sioux City or Sioux Falls, or even Mitchell, but the overall economic businesses just seem more in number and in modernity. The state capital cannot be responsible for all of that, can it?

    • I must admit that I haven’t been in downtown Pierre, and it’s been a while since I’ve been in downtown Mitchell. I’m sure people coming into Pierre for state business helps, but I couldn’t say with certainty what factors are at play in Pierre.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s