Sioux Falls passes $1 Billion in building permits

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 7:28 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Mayor Paul TenHaken held a surprise press conference today to celebrate the latest milestone in the city’s growth --- the $1 billion mark in building permits filed in 2021.

He credited his administration’s focus on one word for Sioux Falls -- “investable.”

“This means (we’ve set) the right policies, the right programs, the right incentives to make sure that businesses want to spend money here, that they want to build here, that people want to move here, and thus developers want to invest in housing and so-forth,” TenHaken said.

The building growth is even more impressive considering other parts of the economy that covid has shrunk and even destroyed. Ironically, the pandemic forced the city to move its building permit process online, which made the procedure more efficient.

TenHaken attributed city planning and development director Jeff Eckoff’s team for that swift pivot.

But now, a new challenge awaits. Eckoff is receiving two-to-three times the number of construction applications it did two years ago, making the wait for permit to start building twice as long. Combined with supply shortages, this wait has left developers restless and worried about losing their grip on new business.

“Our message is ‘we’re sorry,’” Eckoff said. “We’re as frustrated as you are that we can’t move things faster. But, it’s collective, it’s across the board. The headwinds are against us.”

To speed things up so buildings can go up, the city hired a new plans examiner, who starts on Monday. But TenHaken said the city - despite having a leaner budget than peer cities for this kind of thing - has to be weary of adding even more staff in case a recession hits and the market takes a downturn next year.

It’s all a part of making sure that although growth is good, the demand for new buildings doesn’t outgrow what the city’s infrastructure can handle.

“We can manage this growth so it’s sustainable growth. It’s not just growth for growth’s sake. We’re trying to be strategic, as well, insuring that businesses who do come here, we can support it from a public safety standpoint, with infastructure needs, with the housing the employees are going to need, and so forth.”

Speaking of infrastructure, Eckhoff said, sure, if passed, President Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill could help with supply shortages and other things slowing down building projects in Sioux Falls, but having the capacity to manage that kind of infusion in dollars and projects will be a whole other challenge.

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