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20-acre retail development coming to Ozark

City is peppered with residential, industrial and governmental projects

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A local development group is working on a 20-acre commercial development in Ozark.

The site is on undeveloped land just east of U.S. Highway 65 across South Street/Missouri Route 14 from the Ozark Town Center, the site of Walmart, Lowe’s and smaller retailers.

Developer Brad Thessing of Thessing Commercial Properties LLC confirmed he is negotiating with multiple national retail tenants and has letters of intent signed after about a year of planning. He declined to disclose names of the companies, saying he prefers to let companies make their own announcements.

He said the area was ripe for commercial development in the growing city.

“[Highway] 65 carries a lot of traffic, and the site is in close proximity to a lot of different areas of the city,” he said.

He said the plan is typical of large retail developments, with food services, general retail, medical offices, grocery and hospitality tenants, as well as a hotel. He said quick-service restaurants, small shops and larger retail could be among the offerings.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is currently at work on a $30.3 million project that will widen U.S. Highway 65 in Ozark to six lanes – three in each direction – between Christian County routes CC/J and Route F, according to MoDOT’s website. An auxiliary lane is planned to be added in each direction to connect interchange ramps between routes 14 and F. The project is slated for completion in November 2025.

Additionally, Thessing said the city and county have approved a plan to expand South Street to five lanes, including a turning lane. He said the three-way stoplight in front of Ozark Town Center will become a four-way stoplight leading to an interior road in the new development.

The new infrastructure helped pave the way for the development.

“It’s a great location with a lot of new infrastructure,” Thessing said. “Infrastructure is massively important to developments and tenants in terms of traffic flow.”

Ozark Interim City Administrator Ben DeClue said the city previously invested $4 million for South Street infrastructure work, including widening and intersection improvements that took place 2017-22 through a 3/8-cent transportation sales tax. An estimate for further infrastructure work is not yet available.

Thessing said he is working on behalf of a three-member development group that he also declined to name, only noting the three people are all related to one another.

“The ownership group has been very easy to work with, knowing the possibility here, but also the amount of time it takes and the money to put a development like this together,” he said.

The Christian County Recorder’s Office said the property where the development is planned is owned by Elk Valley LLC, which is owned by Joe Warren.

City on the move
Thessing’s marketing flyer proposes 14 lots ranging from 0.61 to 2.87 acres apiece. It notes the site is less than 1 mile from three proposed residential developments: Valley Ridge Estates, with 133 planned single-family lots; 20th Street Multifamily, with 124 planned apartment units; and Woodcrest, with 117 planned single-family lots. Eight other Ozark housing developments are also listed on the flyer, which notes the city has nearly quadrupled in size since 1990.

The U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for July 2022 was 22,512 for the city, up by 1,233, or almost 6%, from two years before.

According to the Census Bureau figures from 2022, Ozark’s median age is 33.1 with an average household income of nearly $67,000.

Ozark Mayor Don Currence said he hears from a lot of companies that want to come to Ozark, and from people who want to live in the city southeast of Springfield.

“It’s just wonderful for the city of Ozark,” he said. “There are so many positive things here about the city.”

He said in addition to his role as mayor, he is a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Ozark, which recently hired a pastor.

“We had no problem getting candidates,” he said. “People want to come here because of our location near Springfield and Branson, our big school system and all the amenities we have to offer here.”

Wearing his other hat, he is in the process of searching for a permanent city administrator.

“I tell them, ‘Guys, I’m not worried about getting candidates. People want to live here,’” he said.

Kristen Haseltine, president and CEO of economic development agency Show Me Christian County, said Christian County, which contains Ozark, is growing. The Missouri Census Data Center’s 2024 figures peg Christian as the third fastest-growing county in the state, after Platte and Lincoln, with 24% growth since 2010. Greene is No. 10 with 12% growth in that period.

“Across the full county, there are developments going in and interest in many of our communities,” she said. “Housing is a regional concern, and that’s something our developers are looking at as well – where can we put people? This is something that’s going to help the region.”

Unemployment is at 2.5% in the Springfield metropolitan statistical area as of January 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We need more people in our area to attract more business,” she said.

The housing starts signal a need for more commercial development, Haseltine said, noting the location of the 20-acre development is a good one.

“There’s not a lot of 65 corridor between Springfield and Branson that have infrastructure where it could be developed,” she said. “For this, it was just a matter of timing as to when the property owner was ready to sell a portion of it.”

She noted the Ozark Town Center is one of the largest taxing areas in the city.

“It’s a sales tax revenue generator for the city and county,” she said, “and having a development on the other side is just going to amplify it.”

Haseltine said the new development would likely attract some traffic from U.S. Highway 65, including tourists passing through from Springfield to Branson.

“Hopefully, they’ll stop into that section and spend a little time in Ozark,” she said.

While it’s good to draw in travelers, Currence said it’s also good to offer variety to residents.

“People all the time are saying they tried this store or that store, and they had to go to Nixa or Springfield to get what they needed,” he said. “From what I hear, everybody wants not a fast-food restaurant, but more of a chain like Cheddar’s or Applebee’s. I hear that a lot.”

Currence said residents often express an interest in an Aldi supermarket as well.

The need for a hotel was established in a Christian County hospitality study released in 2023. That study, conducted by Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners, found there was demand for a local hotel development, and the top site in the county for a hotel development was in Ozark. It recommended a 95-plus room hotel with 4,500 square feet of meeting space.

Tax need
Currence said he welcomes the anticipated tax revenue from the new development.

“I’m selfish,” he said. “As a city, we survive by sales tax. The more businesses that come in, the better for the city.”

Currence said the COVID-19 pandemic hurt some brick-and-mortar stores, as customers grew accustomed to ordering goods online and, in the process, skirting the sales tax. The development will help bolster city coffers, he said.

The city of Ozark failed in three attempts to pass a use tax to fund public safety, most recently in November 2022. That tax would have funded additional police officers and a facility for the growing staff.

“That made it more difficult for the city as inflation and costs for infrastructure and even employees continue to increase,” Haseltine said. “Whenever you don’t have that local support, it makes things hard.”

Other developments
Haseltine and Currence each confirmed a 200-acre industrial development is in the conceptual stages in Ozark.

“There’s something in development, but it’s in the very early stages,” Currence said.

Haseltine said at the moment, efforts are centered on infrastructure.

“It’s premature to talk about, but we’re working on it with a developer to see if we can make that happen,” Haseltine said. “There are significant infrastructure issues that we’re trying to come together as a community to figure out a solution for.”

In a January Springfield Business Journal CEO Roundtable podcast, Haseltine said a developer is interested in building a hub for the technology industry.

“It would be great to find the higher-wage, good jobs that are going to keep people in their community to spend their dollars here locally,” she said. “That ultimately is what everybody is wanting, but with that tech focus, I’m hoping we can make that happen.”

She said multiple companies would come together in the project with varying acreages.

“There’s still interest in acquiring more, so it could be a nice-size development,” she said.

Ozark is also working on its government plaza project, with ground broken in September 2023 on the 39-acre project to include governmental buildings, commercial development and a walking trail. The project is expected to take years to complete, according to past SBJ reporting. Five shovel-ready sites that are zoned commercial are located near the intersection of West Jackson and North 25th Street.

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