August 2018 is a milestone month for Friessen Construction, Inc. — the company was incorporated 50 years ago in 1968. Also this month, its founder, Warren Friessen, turned 88.
Friessen grew up in western Sioux Falls, on a homestead located near what is Kuehn Park today. He’s a graduate of Cathedral High School and he and his late wife, Hilda, and their two daughters, Cindy Monnin and Patty Vognild, made their home in western Sioux Falls. The Friessens were charter members of St. Michael’s Parish. Warren and Hilda worked together for a time, too, as she did the bookwork Friessen Construction.
In its early days, Friessen Construction, Inc. performed home and commercial building excavation and finish grading. During the 1970s the business expanded into street construction and reconstruction to include installation of municipal water, sanitary and storm sewer and grading and graveling operations.
In 1983 Friessen Construction Co., Inc. added concrete paving to the portfolio. Projects included drainage structures, curb and gutter for asphalt streets or parking lots, concrete parking lots and street paving.
In 1987, oldest daughter Cynthia Friessen Monnin joined the company. Monnin has worked in every aspect of the company and today serves as President. In 1990, Friessen Construction Co., Inc. entered the residential housing development market. The company has developed more than 300 acres of residential and commercial property since that time.
Friessen Construction has been involved in numerous well-known projects throughout the Sioux Falls area. In the 1990s, the company was the prime contractor for the W. 26th Street and Interstate 29 interchange. Friessen Construction was the excavation contractor for Sanford Children’s (2008) and Sanford Heart Hospital (2011), among many other projects.
Perhaps Friessen’s greatest legacy, however, is Lake Lorraine in western Sioux Falls. Friessen was always searching for base materials for new westside construction projects. He acquired the 130-acre parcel known today as Lake Lorraine over a period of 15 years — it was originally five different parcels of land. The excavated sand was used for many commercial projects in western Sioux Falls, including: Target, Empire East, Billion Automotive on 41st Street, Shopko, Red Lobster and Sioux Falls Ford (which is now located north of the Lake Lorraine development), as well as gravel under Interstate 29 and the re-construction of Marion Road in 1987 from a rural two-lane section of road to a three-lane highway. Friessen said he always pictured a lake in the area and excavated it in such a way to allow for the possibility. The property was ideal for the construction company’s use. It took 15-20 years to excavate and shape the lake, hauling 750,000 yards of sand — the equivalent of 75,000 truckloads of sand — out of the “Terry Pit” as it was referred to by Friessen Construction employees. Ninety percent of the lake was dug out by one man, Dwayne “Squeak” Fanebust, who ran a Lima Dragline to excavate the lake for materials as needed, a process that took more than 10 years. “Friessen Lake” was the lake’s unofficial name before the family named it “Lake Lorraine” in 2001. Lorraine has special meaning for the family — it’s Hilda’s middle name, as well as the middle name of a granddaughter and great-granddaughter.
Lake Lorraine is a clear water lake on the Skunk Creek aquifer and is spring fed. The lake level fluctuates five feet from the high water to the low water mark, depending on local rainfall and weather, averaging 17 feet deep in the middle with a pure sand bottom. The sand strip extends 50 feet in depth and terminates at the bedrock level of quartz rock.
In 2014 Friessen Development, Inc. partnered with Van Buskirk Companies, another family-owned local business, to promote a multi-use location with commercial, office and multi-family homes in a pedestrian-friendly development. With additional expertise and manpower, the project is off and running, drawing in locally-owned retailers, unique restaurants, upscale office spaces, national retailers and more.
The Friessen family continues to invest in quality of life aspects of the development, from a Lake Walk path that extends around the lake, to planned viewing areas and a multi-purpose community structure that is in the works. The family sees the Lake Lorraine development as a gift to the community — all thanks to the vision of their patriarch.
Friessen Construction Co., Inc. has the history, experience and resources to perform a wide variety of construction projects. The company’s lengthy history is due to the many dedicated employees the company has been proud to employ, many who have worked there for several decades.
A recent employee appreciation picnic was held at Lake Lorraine to celebrate 50 years of business and to thank current and past employees for their contributions to the success of the company. With a backdrop of the beautiful lake and ongoing construction projects, the proof of 50 years of success was all around them.