Some who were opposed to the Torgerson Design Partners headquarters project on the town square in Ozark said it was too big and its design didn’t fit the historic aesthetic of the square. (Photo by Susan Wade)

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With emotion in his voice, Ozark Mayor Don Currence cast a tie-breaking vote to approve a proposal for a new building on the downtown square.

“I want to do what’s best for the City of Ozark,” Currence said before announcing his decision at the Ozark Board of Aldermen meeting May 6.

The decision was made after weeks of turmoil with some citizens welcoming the proposal by developer John Torgerson and others adamantly opposed. Torgerson Design Partners now has a development agreement and plans to build a three-story building on Church Street in downtown Ozark. The company has been headquartered on the square in Ozark for 15 years.

Currence said he listened to both sides and approved the proposal because he believes it’s what Ozark needs in the vacant lot where a building constructed in 1882 unexpectedly collapsed in December 2022.

Torgerson Design Partners published a rendering of an updated design to its headquarters on church street in downtown Ozark. The Ozark Board of Aldermen approved a development agreement for the building by a 4-3 vote on May 6, 2024. (Illustration by Torgerson Design Partners)

The vote marked the second time Torgerson’s project was presented to the Ozark aldermen. The first proposal for a building that will house Torgerson Design Partners architecture firm was rejected in a 2-4 vote that sent Torgerson back to the design room in April.

While presenting the modified design May 6, Torgerson told the board he listened to the concerns that were raised and changed the look of the building to address them, while also trying to comply with an ordinance that says new buildings shouldn't be built to deceive people into thinking they are historic.

“As I’ve said before, we’ve checked the boxes,” Torgerson said. “I don’t know of another box that needs to be checked.”

Torgerson served on the Ozark Board of Aldermen from 2016 to 2020. He resigned when he bought a house and moved outside the boundaries of the city's first ward.

Ozark residents value historic square

The Ozark Board of Aldermen initially rejected a proposal for Torgerson Design Partners to build a 3.5-story building on this vacant lot on the historic downtown square. (Photo by Susan Wade)

People who are opposed to the project said it is too modern, too big and won’t fit in with the other buildings on the square that is home to the 104-year-old Christian County Courthouse and other historic buildings.

Christine Dix-Vandandiford, owner of a retail business in the building adjacent to the project site, was not happy about the first proposal nor the project that was approved May 6.

“All he did was change some glass,” Dix-Vandandiford said. “That’s all he did.”

Christine Dix-Vandandiford, owner of 4 The Love of Crafts in the building adjacent to the proposed project, was opposed to the project.(Photo by Susan Wade)

She said the building and its sign are still too big and the design is too modern. She’s also concerned about losing alley access to the back of her business and that the project’s footprint will take a portion of the sidewalk on First Street, which affects the look and feel of the square.

“It’s like getting a bright and shiny diamond ring and putting it next to a piece of gravel,” Dix-Vandandiford said.

Steve Divine, owner of the building where Dix-Vandandiford rents space, said he has hired an attorney and plans to meet with developers to discuss additional issues, including the roofline and moving a sewer line that will require entering his property where the city doesn’t have an easement.

“There’s a lot of gray area,” Divine said. “I have concerns that I would like addressed.”

The building that used to stand here was the oldest on the Ozark town square until it collapsed in December 2022. It was built in 1882. (Photo by Susan Wade)

Susan Wade

Susan Wade’s career includes nine years at the News-Leader in Springfield where she covered various topics, including Christian County, Greene County, higher education and many others. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism and a master’s degree in communications from Missouri State University. She is a lifelong resident of southwest Missouri. Email her at More by Susan Wade