Downtown Dothan Going Forward

By: Rachel Yonkunas Email
By: Rachel Yonkunas Email

Precious Freeman works in, what she calls, a hidden gem of Downtown Dothan: the George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum. It opened in 2000, but has not seen much traffic in years.

“Sometimes that's what happens to gems. They kind of just get lost in plain sight,” said Freeman, Interim Director at the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum.

Now, the Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority and The Downtown Group are trying to make old gems shine once again. Executive Director of the DDRA, Jansen Tidmore, said they have a half million dollar grant to do so.

“It's amazing to see what a little bit of cleaning, some elbow grease, and wood work can do,” said Tidmore.

Tidmore said many developers expressed interest in the Wadlington Site, hoping to fashion a hotel or bed and breakfast. However, with most of those buildings built in the early 1900's, we might start seeing more empty lots.

“Some of these buildings just deteriorate to a point that you can't save them. No matter how much you want to,” explained Tidmore.

Therefore, local leaders are turning empty spaces into clean slates. Many people want to see loft living built downtown—which is something the area has never had. Wes Grant's family has lived in Dothan for generations. He said there is a lot of work being done behind the curtain.

“The old Carmichael Electronics Building, that's being redone right now, by the same people who did Saint Andrews Market and redid the District too,” explained Grant, Chairman of Dothan’s Historic Preservation Committee.

Grocery stores, drug stores, and laundry mats are also on the wish-list. Yet, so are sizeable investments.

“I know that there is a local financial institution that is looking at possibly moving their commercial loan department back to the core area, which I think would be huge,” said Joseph Donofro, local architect and President of Donofro Architects

For freeman, she is looking for something a bit more cultured.

“I wouldn't care if it was history, arts, or science. I just want to see a children's museum,” said Freeman.

After all, getting people here is half the battle. Giving them a reason to stay will help Downtown Dothan prosper.

Tidmore said, “We think that in 2014, we're going to see the pieces of this come together.”

A future project on the DDRA’s list is turning the old Howell School into a senior living facility. It is an estimated $15 million project.

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