Ozark is working to revitalize and redevelop the downtown area

OZARK, Mo. There are major plans for an area already seeing major growth.

Bass Pro is already rehabbing the historic Finley River Mill in Ozark with plans to build a post office themed ice cream parlor and coffee shop.

Now, city leaders are laying the ground work to give downtown a face lift.

"The central business district has always been the heart of Ozark. It's where the river is. It's where our history is. It's where business is done. Being the heart of the area, it just serves to pull it all together," said Ozark City Administrator, Stephen Childers.

This was the plan nearly a decade ago. However, the attempt to revitalize the area never happened.

"We have a lot of opportunity that exists in our central business district that will make Ozark even a better place as a destination," said Childers.

He said that in order to take advantage of that opportunity a blight study has to be done first.

The term blight, often known as neglected or rundown, doesn't always sit well.

"The downtown redevelopment plan is just setting a boundary for developers to identify where they may want to go and where incentives are offered," he said.

By designating a swath of land downtown, near the Finley river as blighted, Ozark will be able to offset building costs for areas that need infrastructure, through financial breaks like tax abatements and tax increment financing.

Childers says it's a great way to entice developers and attract them to the area. This will create more jobs in town and ensure a healthy tax base in the future.

"All of this is timed perfectly now. The economy's on an upswing. Developers want to do work in the city of Ozark. We've got so many things going on not just in the central business
district but in the north and south as well," he said.

That includes a housing boom. The town is also seeing more businesses going up.

Ozark also enjoys a healthy partnership with a major, local company.

"We're thrilled. Getting to this point seeing the mill being moved back and forth, working with Bass Pro on their projects and their visions.
That is going to spread through the downtown. We know that's just going to be the domino effect that we've been waiting for and we've been waiting a long time," said Childers.

Next month, Ozark will have a public hearing with the first reading of the results of the blight study.