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Rebecca Green | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Andrew Nelson

Deputy City Administrator & Builds Administrator, City of Republic

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You recently were promoted to deputy city administrator. What does that role add to your responsibilities?
It adds the supervision of the Police and Fire departments. For the first time, we have a deputy city administrator, which is like a succession plan for the city administrator. This really shores up a No. 2 in the city and helps share the load of management of all the departments.

What are some of the development projects happening in Republic?
Iron Grain is a big one. I would call it probably 20% constructed. That was a big development for us, I think a $65 million development. They’ve started with a retail center, so that’s really a space for business service providers. It’s really the first one in the Brookline area that’ll be a resource to all those employees. We’ve heard for years, even before Amazon, the people that work at McLane or out at Murphy Tractor, Watson Metal Masters, Ashley, they’re like, we need a place to eat. Everybody knows about Whataburger. They should be open, they’re hoping, by the end of September. (At) Garton [Business Park] Lot 4, which is right behind Amazon and it’s the last remaining lot in the industrial park, I’m expecting to issue a permit there for up to a 170,000-square-foot warehouse in the next week or two. It’s a spec building. Convoy of Hope, their world headquarters building next to their distribution center is well underway. They’re probably 50% (constructed).

Are there opportunities for more industrial development in Republic? Is anything in the works?
There's a few different property owners that we're working with. We could probably do 300 or 400 acres pretty quickly. That's kind of the next logical place for us to have an industrial park is really along that MM corridor. The city's looking at how we can partner to make that next investment into the industrial sites.

What about residential development?
We’ve probably got half a dozen or so subdivisions that are finishing up their infrastructure construction, so we’ll start issuing permits for them for new homes. Stone Creek is, if you’re familiar with where our gateway sign is, that will be about a $400 million multifamily development. So, 1,500 apartment units and five or six commercial pad sites at a new intersection at [Highway] 60. They’re moving a lot of dirt. When (the developer) gets that signal built at 60, those commercial lots are probably pretty attractive. That’s within walking distance of where our sports complex will be. We have 136 acres that with the sales tax that we just passed on the park side, we’ll start that sports complex. (We’re) really trying to be a regional host for those types of tournaments. I expect that to be kind of our next hub of economic development.

The city’s population is in growth mode. Since the 2010 census, it has jumped almost 30% to over 19,000. What’s your population forecast?
I see all of our people that were planning to invest, they’re still investing. They’re still building. Their belief is that the southwest Missouri market is strong. I think you could see 10% to 12% a year for us on the highest end for the next several years. For us to be 30,000 in five to 10 years is pretty reasonable.

What type of housing do you need? Are subdivisions still leaning toward starter homes?
That's just an interesting discussion in Republic. Our citizen survey told us that affordable housing was important. The type of housing that's built inside the city limits of Republic is more the starter home up to like the midlevel home, the homes that like are half a million dollars to a million, higher-end homes, are being built right around our perimeter. People are buying 3 to 5 acres, and they're building those homes, but all those people are still customers to Republic. Their kids still go to the school in Republic. That's a story we have to tell. You hear that we need more higher-end homes in Republic. We're getting them, they're just not inside that imaginary line that's the city limits.

What’s the projected completion date on the city’s sports complex, farmers market and aquatic center?
We’re probably looking to start construction in late 2024 on the sports complex and then maybe by 2025-26 to be fully constructed. The first priority is the farmers market and park, which is J.R. Martin Park downtown. That was the No. 1 priority for the citizens when we did our park survey. The No. 2 was the lazy river at our Republic Aquatic Center. In general, it’s about 50/50 Republic residents and people from other communities coming in to use that facility. Adding to it made a lot of sense to us.

When the sports complex opens within four years, what kind of amenities and infrastructure will need to be in place to support the tournaments you’re hoping to attract?
I’m already getting inquiries about hotels. What we want to do, and what makes sense for the region in general, is to partner with the Betty and Bobby Allison Sports Town complex to host big tournaments. The Parks Department describes it as 100-team tournaments and multiweekend. So, everything that goes with that: the hotels, the restaurants, the retail. We have such a space around that park that’s just open, so I see that filling in. The beautiful thing is we’ve been planning somewhat for that park since probably 2018. We started working on the realignment of MM Highway. With our partners at (Missouri Department of Transportation) and (Ozarks Transportation Organization), we have an alignment that brings MM from Amazon on the south side, creates a railroad overpass bridge, and it comes really close to that park. Having that funded and constructed in 2025, that’s a big deal for us because it’s so close to the park. The realigned portion of MM, MoDOT estimates it at $30 million. We’ve also partnered with MoDOT and Greene County to expand MM from James River to (Interstate)-44 to five lanes. That’s $12 million.

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