Future of Saints Apartments Still Questionable

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A much-talked about complex in downtown Dothan may live to see more days.

For weeks, it seemed like Saints Apartments were going to be demolished. The Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority had bought the property and announced plans to demolish it and turn it into a public parking lot. Now, those plans aren't so sure. On Thursday the Historical Preservation Commission challenged the DDRA with rules against allowing an old building to be knocked down.

Commission member Sam Newton reminded the HPC that, “We do have an ordinance that says we must create designed standards; we must apply those standards when we consider applications.”

The board unanimously made a motion to give developers a chance to renovate the apartments instead of tearing them down.

HPC Chairman Ed Vaughn explained, “We would allow the developer 60 days to come forward with a plan for the redevelopment of that property. If that developer did not come forward within 60 days, then we would allow the demolition of that building.”

But before the Preservation Commission can approve the DDRA to tear down the apartments, the building inspector for the city has to rule that the building is a public safety hazard or an economic hardship to maintain. The outcome of the decision is up for debate.

DDRA Executive Director Jansen Tidmore vouched for the demolition of the structure. “I was with the building inspector today and his comments were that there were numerous, numerous safety issues with that building… too many to count. The building has been neglected for a very long time,” he said.

Vaughn disagrees. “Frankly I don't see how they can say it's a hazard to public safety. It doesn't look great, obviously that's the case. But you have to remember that the house that is on the Foster Street side was built in the 1800's and it is a historic home.

Even though the downtown redevelopment authority didn't get approved to demolish the apartments Thursday, Tidmore said the meeting did bring progress, that he encourages developers with project ideas to step up.

Just last month,the Historical Preservation Commission questioned the process the DDRA used to remove asbestos from the Saints Apartments. The DDRA failed to get approval for the project from the commission.

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