Former Joe Foss School planned as international marketplace

By Rob Swenson, for SiouxFalls.Business

Sioux Falls businessman Qader Sadat is ready to turn the former Joe Foss School into an office and retail center that caters largely to immigrants and startup businesses.

He envisions the almost 42,000-square-foot brick building at Cliff Avenue and Third Street becoming a multicultural marketplace. However, anyone is welcome to start a business or open an office in the center, which has yet to be formally renamed, he said.

“It’s a beautiful building, and I like the location,” Sadat said. “It’s got a lot of history.”

Qader Sadat, left, owns the former Joe Foss School. Sam Assam, right, is helping him market it to tenants.

In addition to investing in real estate, Sadat is a car dealer. He owns QS Auto Sales on East Rice Street. He is an immigrant from Afghanistan who has lived in Sioux Falls for more than a decade. His full name is Sayd Abdul Qader Sadat, but he prefers to go by Qader — pronounced Carder — Sadat.

He purchased the vacant building from the Sioux Falls School District, which used it as an elementary school and later as an alternative high school.

The motto of the former high school — Focus. Fortitude. Finish! — could apply to Sadat’s two-year effort to acquire and convert the building into an international marketplace with vendors who might sell food and groceries as well as other products and services.

Sadat bought the building in 2015 as the second-highest bidder for the property after a religious group unsuccessfully tried to acquire the building.

To satisfy city regulations, he had to expand the parking capacity before he could pursue his business concept. So he added a second lot on the south side of the building. A total of more than 80 parking slots are available.

Sadat said expanding the hard-surfaced parking area cost him more than the $150,000 that he paid for the building.

During the rezoning process, there had been some concerns about what would happen to the neighborhood if a single, big retailer took over the tract, but those concerns were alleviated.

“We had a neighborhood meeting with an excellent turnout. I don’t think we had any negative comments,” said Sam Assam of Assam Commercial Real Estate, who is helping Sadat recruit tenants for the center.

People liked the idea of a center with multiple businesses, Assam said. “What they don’t want is an empty building that can be vandalized” and is left to deteriorate.

City requirements have been satisfied now and, with help from Assam, Sadat is starting to reach out to tenants. Assam estimates that substantially filling the building could take 12 to 18 months.

Jeff Schmitt, the city’s chief planning and zoning official, said Sadat’s plan to create a business center is a good reuse of a solid building that had a good run as a public school.

“To reuse this building and reuse the good bones of the building was appropriate,” Schmitt said.

Some walls are being painted, and some carpet might be replaced. Sadat, however, isn’t extensively altering the interior. No walls are being torn down, for example.

The interior of the building appears to be clean and well-maintained. Some inspirational slogans from school days remain on the walls. The two-and-a-half-story building includes space for about 20 offices, several first-floor stores, a child care center and an exercise area. Features include four skylights and an elevator.

Lease rates are being calculated based on building operating expenses.

“The concept is for an incubator for small businesses for a lot of immigrants and a place where they can get started cost-effectively,” Assam said.

The building, which is at 1200 E. Third St., is near Franklin Food Market and the Laundromat Company, which are across Cliff Avenue to the west. The Salvation Army is to the north, and residential areas begin to the east and south.

Ted Haggar, owner of Franklin Food Market, said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the redevelopment.

“We want to see who he gets in there,” Haggar said. “It’s going to be interesting. We wish him the best of luck.”

Former Joe Foss School planned as international marketplace

Sioux Falls businessman Qader Sadat is ready to turn the former Joe Foss School into an office and retail center that caters largely to immigrants and startup businesses.

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