The Missouri Department of Economic Development recently received a "Best Practice" award from HUD for their funding support of the City of Ozark, Missouri downtown revitalization.
Ozark, Missouri shared a similar fate with many cities during the later part of the past century. As urban sprawl led commercial development away from the downtown area, the central core of the city suffered. By the start of 2000, many of the downtown historic buildings were either vacant or at best underused. Plywood covered the windows of several decaying storefronts. Because of the poor condition of many of the buildings, the crumbling sidewalks, and the inadequate water and sewer service, businesses were reluctant to invest in the downtown area.
The decline began to turn around when business leaders formed the Ozark Main Street Program. Their goal was to return the once-blighted core of the community to the center of commercial enterprise and government it once was. In 2003 the City applied for, and received, a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The City of Ozark provided over $110,000 in funds and in-kind match.
Building owners and new investors realized the City's commitment to improvements in center city would support reinvestment in the area. They invested over $300,000 in building renovation and other business improvements. This reinvestment has paid off by creating 68 new jobs in the downtown area. Most are service and retail jobs, with many professional jobs and owner-operated new businesses. Sixteen historic buildings have been restored, and nineteen new offices or retail shops are now open in the downtown area.
The downtown is a different place than it was just two years ago. Beautifully restored buildings sit behind the newly completed sidewalks and lighting. Water lines, sewer improvements and sidewalks have been completed in most of the downtown area. However, the Ozark downtown revitalization will continue. The City recently received another Community Development Block Grant to complete street and curb improvements, and for added lighting and landscaping. Plans are in place for renovation of more buildings, and more businesses and new jobs will soon appear in the downtown area.