Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Yankton Press & Dakotan. September 14, 2021.

Editorial: Broadway Frontage Discussion Needed

An old discussion over a potentially prime piece of real estate is being revived by the Yankton City Commission.

At their meeting Monday, city commissioners talked briefly about the possibility of developing the property along Broadway west of the city cemetery. Further talks are expected.

This is more than seven acres of empty land situated along what could now fairly be viewed as Yankton’s main street and certainly one of the most high-profile portions of the community.

The frontage land has long sat empty and undeveloped. Several decades ago, this property was nestled mostly on the outskirts of the city. But as Yankton has grown to the north, the Broadway land that slopes gently down from the cemetery (which is technically located along Douglas Ave.) has sat largely untouched.

Commissioners are broaching a topic last discussed in 2007, when an idea to possibly develop the property was brought up and dismissed. It comes up again because of requests that have been fielded from potential developers about the land.

This would be a good time to revisit the issue. The discussion can better gauge where the community is on the matter and what advantages and disadvantages may come with developing this property.

Contrary to what many people believe, the land is not platted or set aside for cemetery expansion, Community & Economic Development Director Dave Mingo noted Monday. Even without the Broadway frontage, it’s estimated that, at the current burial rate, the city cemetery has more than 160 years of space available.

But the principle of the geography — developing land adjacent to the grounds of a municipal cemetery — remains a delicate subject.

Thus, the conversation is needed.

That area of Yankton has changed greatly during the last 30 years. The Fox Run development, located literally across the street (albeit a four-lane one) from the Broadway frontage in question, turned what was once a large block of mostly rural land into a sprawling development filled with businesses, housing and a golf course. It dramatically expanded the city’s reach north to West Highway 50 and beyond. Thus, what was essentially open country has become an urbanized area — to the west of Broadway.

Meanwhile, there has been very little change on the east side below the cemetery.

Given the city’s drive for development and the growth trend on the north side of town, the frontage property sits as an enticing draw filled with considerable potential.

This property is also important as an entryway showcase. When visitors come to Yankton from the north, they see several businesses and the Fox Run development on the west side, but a lot of open, undeveloped (albeit neatly manicured) space to the east. This creates a sketchy impression.

With that, one option for the property — if people are determined not to see any development — is to enhance the land as a more vibrant green space, creating a more aesthetically appealing look which does not intrude on the cemetery’s atmosphere.

This piece of property offers several different paths forward for the community. The discussion should be considered in a modern-day context, for this is a very different Yankton from the one that has chosen to leave this land undeveloped for many years. It’s time to examine the possibilities again.

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