Melissa Vair is a graduate student at Troy University Online. She teaches yoga classes in her house on South Foster Street.
Her business is relatively new and the only of its kind in downtown Dothan. She said that has its advantages and disadvantages. To Vair, the abundance of empty buildings impedes downtown from its full promise.
“Dothan has so much potential between our location, being so close to the ocean, being close to other big cities like Atlanta and Tallahassee, we have things to offer,” said Vair, director of Mesuva Studios.
Local leaders agree. The Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Downtown Group are revitalizing the area one property at a time. Jansen Tidmore is the Executive Director of the DDRA. He said there are new businesses coming to Foster Street. One is a retail and design boutique called Push Crank Press. They are in the process of renovating the building next to The Nest. According to Tidmore. downtown development is slow, but steady.
“In 6 short years, this [downtown] is one of the places that they host the big banquets and they host the people for the overnight dinners,” said Tidmore.
That will prove true in March. During the U.S. China Manufacturing Symposium, downtown will host several events.
“One of the nights, our goal is to have a Foster Fest. Have all the Chinese and invite the community out, and meet our guests, one on one. We'll have interpreters and we'll have all the restaurants open,” said Mayor Mike Schmitz of Dothan.
“We're looking at getting some Far East entertainment, but also have a lot of our traditional entertainment,” said Jill Williams of The Downtown Group.
However, it is not just about entertainment. Events like these highlight the big role downtown plays in economic development.
“When the mayor brings an industrial prospect to Dothan, he's coming downtown whether he likes it or not. And we've got to put our best face forward to make that trip enjoyable and make it encouraging enough that they say they would like to live here and work here and build a business or an industry,” explained Joseph Donofro, President of Donofro Architects.
The U.S. China Manufacturing Symposium is March 26th through the 28th. Dothan will host the first International Foster Fest on Thursday, March 27th.