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Rebirth in Bolivar underway

Historic renovations are on the square, while officials seek development in empty business park

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Some 30 miles north of Springfield, a community is resurrecting old buildings, recruiting new businesses and awaiting a large portion of development.

A Bolivar-born attorney and developer, Pat Douglas, is one of those leading in the development of the southwest Missouri town.

“I think it’s interesting how the businesses that grow meld into other areas of southwest Missouri,” he said.

He’s in the process of relocating his Bolivar law office, Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC, to the historic First National Bank building, a six-year ongoing personal restoration project.

“It was in horrible shape. It’s hard to describe how junked up it was,” Douglas said.

So far, he’s invested over $1 million in the building, 108 N. Main St.

“The meter is still running,” Douglas said.

The law firm will be joined by an insurance office of Ollis/Akers/Arney to bring the building to full capacity this summer.

The project is a small piece of identity for the Polk County seat. The pillars are a college, Southwest Baptist University, and a sprawling Citizens Memorial Hospital campus.

“You take those two components for a town of about 11,000 people, it really, really helps to fuel the economy in a positive fashion,” said Gail Noggle, Bolivar’s director of economic development.

Development landscape
Another key development is the $22 million Mercy multispecialty clinic under construction at the intersection of highways 13 and 83. The 43,000-square-foot facility is slated to have 40 full-time employees at opening this fall.

“It’s a nice entrance to the front door of the community,” Noggle said. “It’s very visible from Highway 13.”

Additionally, a Best Western Plus hotel opened in June 2018. The 61-room, $4 million property at 777 E. San Martin St. has vacant land located next to it, which Noggle said is a prime restaurant site.

A senior housing development has been presented to city officials by Columbia-based Engineering Surveys & Services LLC and Kansas City-based Rosemann & Associates PC, said Sydney Allen, Bolivar code enforcement officer.

The development, located off Oakland Road in western Bolivar, is planned to start off with 48 units. Allen wasn’t sure of the total cost of the development, but said some state funding was awarded.

“Hopefully, they’ll be breaking ground this summer,” Noggle said.

Another establishment, Tracker Marine, which reopened in April 2018, created 130 jobs that were formerly lost eight years ago, she said. Tracker was looking at other locations in other states, Noggle said, before reopening in Bolivar.

While those businesses returned or arrived, Teters Floral Products Inc. was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“Unfortunately, we lost Teters last year and we are working with the various entities to help get that back in operation,” Noggle said roughly 250 jobs lost. The vacancy was recently filled, with Phoenix Decor LLC and developer Warren Davis purchasing the former Teters property at 1425 S. Lillian Ave. By late summer, plans call for Phoenix Decor to use the former Teters space to manufacture and distribute artificial floral decorations, according to a news release.

“I think they’re looking at 50 employees by year’s end at least,” Davis said. “I think it’ll take about a year and a half to two years to get it built back up.”

The rebirth
After his law firm considered buying the former First National Bank property for several years, Douglas decided to take the renovation into his own hands.

He first purchased the building, now 112 years old, around 2013 and has replaced windows, stairways, floors and drywall with infill work throughout since then.

“To say it’s been renovated and restored is an understatement,” Douglas said.

Springfield-based Jack Ball & Associates Architects PC did the design work.

Douglas registered the property with the National Park Service, and with the aid of historic tax credits and Jefferson City officials, he saved “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“I could not have done the project on the corner without the credits. It would not have been financially feasible,” he said.

The project holds a personal significance to Douglas, a lifelong Bolivar native, whose great-grandfather opened the family’s law firm a block away in 1912.

“This is on my corner, if there ever was one for me in the world,” he said.

Douglas isn’t done yet.

He said he plans on a mixture of selling and donating the existing law firm building, 111 W. Broadway St., to the Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation and wants to purchase another building on the north side of the downtown square, referred to as the old Commerce Bank building.

“Basically, I don’t know yet if I’ll do a tax credit project,” he said. “I’m not positive it will be possible. This one is not as obvious.”

His vision for the property is lofts with restaurant space below.

Projects like the First National Bank restoration illustrate the importance of the planning process for economic development, Noggle said.

“Yes, you want to attract businesses, but a way to do that is working with the Department of Economic Development at the state level, making sure that your table is set so that when you do get a lead from them, you can respond very quickly,” she added.

Bolivar has 70 acres on Highway 13 for its business park, shovel-ready with utilities and environmental work already completed. The park is owned by Bolivar’s Industrial Development Authority and managed by its board of directors, Noggle said.

So far, Noggle said no developers have reached out with interest, but officials are in negotiations to list the park with a real estate agent experienced in commercial and industrial parks.

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