Downtown business owners and community members alike agree that vacant and rundown buildings and a lack of shopping and restaurants are some of the greatest challenges facing downtown Yankton.
But survey respondents also note that Yankton’s downtown benefits from a rich history, an abundance of unique historic buildings and its proximity to the Missouri River. That’s something the community would like to see capitalized on as Onward Yankton moves forward in helping revitalize the downtown area into a thriving creative district.
Onward Yankton has released the findings from its downtown surveys, which were taken by 542 community members and 53 community business owners in late 2015. The surveys were the first step in Onward Yankton’s mission to develop a strategic plan that includes making the riverfront and downtown district the heart of Yankton.
“We developed this survey because we felt it was critical for us to listen to the community members and business owners first before developing any plan to make sure that the direction we were taking was one that would resonate with those who both visit and those who call downtown home,” said Carmen Schramm, who serves as the downtown/creative district committee chair and is on the board of directors for Onward Yankton.
“We believe our riverfront and downtown district could – and should – be the heart of Yankton. That’s why we’re developing a vision plan for a heartbeat downtown. This creative district will focus on our needs – bistros, retail and housing – as well as space for start-ups and entrepreneurs to thrive.”
In surveys returned by business owners, when asked to rate 30 different things that might enhance downtown Yankton, respondents indicated a desire for more restaurants, more retail stores, a family-friendly atmosphere, consistency in store hours and a farmer’s market.
When asked what would help bring downtown businesses together, the most common response was regular communication and meetings that all business owners attend, followed by a willingness to work together, having a vision and strategic plan for downtown Yankton, and hiring an executive director and events coordinator for downtown Yankton. Concerning business hours, 45 percent of business owners support the idea of set downtown business hours; however, only 27 percent said they would abide by set business hours.
In surveys returned by community members, when asked what they liked most about downtown Yankton, the most common responses were stores and restaurants, the history and the buildings. When asked what they liked least, the most common responses were lack of shopping and restaurant options, rundown buildings, vacant buildings and store hours.
When asked what three things they would do to improve or change downtown Yankton, the most common responses were to fill the vacant buildings with stores and restaurants, have more festivals, events and entertainment, make the downtown more family-friendly and fix up rundown buildings.
Schramm said the next step is for the downtown committee to finalize its objectives and tactics to support the board of directors’ strategic goals of making the river the heart of River City; growing, developing and sustaining the community of Yankton; and linking the community of Yankton through cohesive collaboration.
“Based on the survey results, we know that our community believes there are a lot of identified strengths in downtown Yankton, but we also know that there are many issues that need to be addressed if downtown Yankton is to be revitalized,” Schramm said. “We are excited to move forward in addressing these concerns and reestablishing the downtown area into a thriving creative district where our community members want to eat, play and live.”
Surveys were developed and analyzed by Dr. Alan Ferris, a professor of psychology at Mount Marty College. Previously, Ferris has assisted the community in several research projects, including the City of Yankton Employee Satisfaction Survey, the Attitudes toward the Community Library Survey, the Chamber Training Needs Survey, and the Attitudes toward Drug Use for the Coalition for a Drug-Free Yankton.