Jodi’s Journal: Honoring The Architect of Modern Sioux Falls

Aug. 30, 2019

The man whose vision and design work created some of the most iconic buildings in modern Sioux Falls history has died.

Jeff Hazard had just turned 64 and died Aug. 30 after battling cancer.

I couldn’t write a standard, straightforward obituary for Hazard, who followed his father into architecture and joined the Koch Hazard firm in 1988, because his life and legacy were anything but ordinary.

Most of us leave this world with a small marker or monument denoting we were here. Hazard leaves it with enduring, meaningful monuments in the form of buildings across this state, including many you likely passed by today.

His list of projects reads like a history book on the past several decades in Sioux Falls.

There’s the Denny Sanford Premier Center, the Washington Pavilion and Orpheum Theater Center — buildings that bring our community together and help visitors make memories of Sioux Falls.

There’s Sanford Imagenetics and Raven Industries’ corporate headquarters — buildings that, through Hazard’s talented design, manage to show what the organizations inside them value and what makes them who they are.

And there’s Cherapa Place, the downtown building that first demonstrated for Sioux Falls how to reclaim the riverfront, utilize sustainable design and elevate construction with building materials that will outlast all of us.

“I don’t know that we’d be here without what he has done. I didn’t necessarily have any big visions. I got to see and approve everything, but I really put that into his hands because he was visionary when it came to that,” said Jeff Scherschligt, the developer and co-owner of Cherapa Place.

“He was truly an architect that believed in quality materials, things that were longer lasting, architectural design that was pleasing. And he moved Sioux Falls forward from that respect, he really did. He just had that eye.”

Because I don’t want to leave anything out, here’s the list of projects Hazard must have felt distinctive enough to his career to include them on his resume:

  • Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls
  • Sanford Imagenetics, Sioux Falls
  • Raven Industries Corporate Headquarters, Sioux Falls
  • Sammons Financial Center, Sioux Falls*
  • Orpheum Theater Center, Sioux Falls*
  • Children’s Home Society and Children’s Inn, Sioux Falls*
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls*
  • Huron School District, Huron
  • Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls*
  • National Campus Headquarters, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Sioux Falls
  • St. Martin Campus, ELGSS, Rapid City
  • Prairie Creek Campus, ELGSS, Sioux Falls*
  • Phillips Centre, Sioux Falls*
  • School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, Vermillion
  • Salsbury Science Center, University of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls
  • The Center for Western Studies, Augustana College, Sioux Falls*
  • Performing Arts Center, South Dakota State University, Brookings*
  • Falls Center, Sioux Falls*
  • Washington Pavilion of Arts & Science, Sioux Falls*
  • Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith Law Firm, Sioux Falls*
  • Memorial Middle School, Sioux Falls*
  • The Outdoor Campus, Sioux Falls*
  • Cherapa Place & Cherapa II Development, Sioux Falls
  • Courthouse Square, Sioux Falls*
  • Zion Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls*

* award recipient

Hazard leaves a firm built on hard work, blended perhaps with a bit of perfectionism and intense dedication to clients and community.

All it takes to see that is a quick look at the firm’s website, where principal Keith Thompson describes Hazard as having “a relentless pursuit of doing better.”

Principal Stacy McMahan adds, “If you really take the time to listen to what he’s saying and look at the situation, he is usually right about most everything.”

I’ll wager a guess that’s at least in part because it was in Hazard’s nature to listen before he spoke.

I remember many times when I’d find him silently standing near the back of some community-related announcement, just taking it all in. Often, I’d seek him out and ask his opinion on whatever the latest project was. Sometimes, I’d catch his eye when an eager proposer started detailing a plan we both knew was too pie-in-the-sky to ever become reality.

But at heart, he was still a dreamer too. Inspired by his time on the West Coast and traveling elsewhere, he brought ideas and adapted them to Sioux Falls.

“It really started when he came to town and bought his original office building on the north end of downtown Sioux Falls with not much going on,” Scherschligt told me as we reminisced recently about Hazard’s career.

That was Falls Center, where Koch Hazard still has its office. Hazard and his wife, Sheila, remodeled it. They put a brewery in there, Scherschligt added.

“What foresight. How ahead of his time,” he said. “The brewery didn’t really take hold because it was just ahead of its time.”

But that was Hazard – seeing the future, getting Sioux Falls ready for what he knew it could become.

Then he and Sheila tackled the Southwestern Building on South Phillips Avenue, where tenants today, fittingly, include Fernson Brewing Co.

“That kind of remodel was happening around the country, but nobody had really done it in Sioux Falls,” Scherschligt said. “So he set the tone.”

From there, they moved onto the Beach Pay Building and the Parker Block, and then to the historic former bakery on North Main Avenue, which today is The Design House.

A crowning achievement, Jones421, captures Hazard’s spirit for me as well as anything.

 

Who else could have taken an old former seed warehouse on North Phillips Avenue, turned it into condominiums, added new construction that blended with it and leased an entire first floor to micro-retailers?

And it’s not just being able to design it and build it and lease it but the willingness to invest in it, to put their time and resources into a block of downtown where modern development hadn’t exactly reached yet. To test the condominium market at a price point when no one really knew if it would work. To decide to live in one of the units themselves.

The latter was a way to show other prospective buyers that living there was good enough for the developers, I remember them telling me.

“And it is,” Hazard said.

The last time I saw him, he was walking through that building.

“I just believe this guy had a phenomenal vision for downtown,” Scherschligt said. “He was dedicated to trying to find a way to make our community better, to move us into the future as a progressive city.”

For instance, “there’s a design out there nobody has ever seen for the event center (downtown), and he did all that,” Scherschligt added. “He didn’t charge me for that work, that visioning for the community.”

I should also mention that he and Sheila have built an incredible record of working with small-business owners, including artists. They have been many retailers’ first landlords. They have been the ones to donate their space for art shows. They have done it all with little fanfare and always with a better future for Sioux Falls in mind.

Hazard was quiet by nature, but what he leaves behind speaks for him. And it will for as far into the future as I can see.

“He was a quiet powerhouse, especially as it related to downtown Sioux Falls,” Scherschligt said. “We’re going to miss him.”

I second that.

Koch Hazard Architects will hold a Celebration of Architecture open house at its office soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories or condolences in the interim, you can email RememberingJeff@kochhazard.com.

The firm released the following statement:

“Koch Hazard Architects has lost a visionary, talented architect, mentor and friend. Jeff’s contributions to the architecture of South Dakota, and parts of Minnesota and Iowa, the profession and especially to the community of Sioux Falls will be felt for generations.

No words can adequately express our sadness at Jeff’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with and learn from him. We will honor his memory and the legacy of the firm by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.”

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Jodi’s Journal: Honoring The Architect of Modern Sioux Falls

The man whose vision and design work created some of the most iconic buildings in modern Sioux Falls history has died.

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