Charting a future for retail in downtown Sioux City 


Retail planning in Sioux City? Here's the view from the Chamber of Commerce.

By Russ Gifford
(Originally published in The Weekender, 04/03/03)

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Photo by Mike Northrup

Debi Durham talks positively about Sioux City's future. She says what's most important is to create jobs in Siouxland so that businesses have customers.

South, from the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce on Pierce Street.
The materials in the Chamber of Commerce's waiting area reflect everything that is happening in Sioux City. White boards announce locations of meetings for Chamber Board members. Flyers promote the "Keep the Green in Siouxland" campaign - though so far, you don't hear much about it outside of this office and Downtown Partners. You can feel the pace of the place, as staffers hurry by, and phones are grabbed on the bound.

Through the waiting room windows, you can see the changes in the downtown skyline. The Sioux City Art Center and Siouxland Cancer Center are located where the big bulky warehouses once marked the edge of Sioux City's downtown. Other remnants of the past era of riverboat and railroad shipping remain, however: The former railroad depot next door is now an upscale office complex, but its neighbor - most recently a nightclub - is empty. Also visible is the now lifeless transit center. All challenges, says Debi Durham, president of the Siouxland Chamber. From the Chamber offices, you can see the new event center rising from the dirt beyond the current Auditorium.

From the zoning codes to the planned development areas, she says, there is a plan, and people are always working to attract new businesses. What about retail businesses? "Retail isn't the focus of the Chamber," says Durham. "We bring together the partners, the city, the Siouxland Initiative, SEDC (Siouxland Economic Development Corporation) and others to promote major business development," because retail will follow where the jobs are, says Durham. "We aren't ignoring them, but we know what they need, and that's customers." The city, and groups such as Downtown Partners, the West Seventh group, and other organizations that work with the Chamber, look out for the retailers. "To have customers, we need jobs." Dependable jobs that pay well, she added. "During the '90s, when times were good for businesses, we had to rebuild the city. The '80s were not kind to Sioux City, and we had a lot of work to do, to attract good businesses, to develop our plans."

What about downtown retail? "This isn't the 1950's anymore. People have choices of where to shop. We need to make certain they have jobs, so they can shop, and choose to shop here," says Durham.

Her plan must be working. Tufty was unreserved in his praise of the Chamber. "They've put it together," he says, "and it is working."

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