After 18 months of waiting, the answers finally came during a phone call late Friday. For the first time in nearly 10 years, a fixture in the Mountain Home community will see a resurrection of sorts while the city prepares to welcome its first major retailer in many years.
Getting the Stage Store company to set up shop in the former King's building was nothing short of a series of small miracles. It was spearheaded by a group of city officials and a team of determined volunteers that wanted to make this city a better place to live, work and play.
Make no mistake. This was not an easy process. As they took each step, the local urban renewal committee and the city's economic development office faced countless roadblocks -- each one threatening to unravel the entire deal.
This business venture was, by far, the urban renewal committee's largest community improvement project in years. It was second only to the committee's original purpose, which was to help bring Marathon Cheese to Mountain Home.
Money for the King's building overhaul actually came from the Marathon Cheese deal when the committee was left with excess funds by the time the cheese processing plant opened. While the urban renewal committee had done some small-scale improvements to the downtown area, this all-volunteer group of men and women really hoped to finance a major project to help revitalize the city's downtown area.
Enter the Stage Store company, which had started to inquire about coming to Mountain Home. Over the next few months, the urban renewal committee drew up plans to buy and extensively refurbish the King's building. As part of the deal, the department store chain would agree to lease the facility when the renovation work was finished.
That's when the dream of restoring the downtown area turned into a nightmare that no one had ever envisioned.
Among the logistical challenges included the owner of the King's property. The company had fallen behind on paying its property taxes on the building and was now facing a tax lien from the county. Meanwhile, the property's original lien was held by a bank in Utah, which went bankrupt just as negotiations to buy the building had started.
Eventually, Mountain Home prevailed. It took the tenacity of people like growth and development director Paula Riggs and its former director, Ron Swearingen, who brokered a deal that allowed the urban renewal committee to buy the building at a price they could afford.
But just when everything started to come together once again, new problems arose. This time, questions surfaced on exactly where the urban renewal committee could spend its dollars. Simply put, the King's building fell within the committee's district but was outside of its revenue allocation area -- an accidental oversight. It meant it couldn't spend money to buy the building.
This required the committee to jump through even more legal hoops to change its revenue allocation area to include the city's downtown area. When all was said and done, the committee met all of these requirements just two days before new rules would've made the deal null and void.
For months, people in this city have asked repeatedly which business was going into the King's building. But with all the legal issues surrounding the deal, officials made the tough decision to keep things under wraps until everything was finalized.
This is nothing new to Mountain Home. In fact, it was similar to the agreement local officials made with Marathon Cheese, who didn't go public with the deal until the day they broke ground on their processing plant near the city airport.
Ultimately, the restoration of the King's building and the addition of a new department store in Mountain Home is a win-win for this community. In addition to giving the downtown area a much-overdue makeover, those that live here will gain another place to shop, thereby keeping dollars in the local area.
Meanwhile, businesses in the downtown area will see a considerable increase in foot traffic as shoppers visit this new department store. It's a safe bet that these same shoppers will also stop by these other stores and realize just how many unique places there are in this part of Mountain Home.
Although it took 18 months, we believe it was well worth the wait.
-- Brian S. Orban