Revitalizing downtown Dothan has been at the forefront of city politics for over a decade. City leaders have promised to pump life back into the area, and now they say a new consultant will give them the tools necessary to tackle some of the biggest problems plaguing the downtown area.
One concern among downtown patrons is safety. It's a big concern that even mayor pat Thomas shares. Despite routine police patrols, some people say they still do not feel safe walking through downtown Dothan.
"Downtown has to be safe and there has to be a perception that it is safe. The same with parking; there has to be adequate parking and there has to be the perception that there is adequate parking," said Mayor Thomas.
Parking is another issue causing problems downtown. On any given day, parking can be non-existent, and when there is parking, finding a pathway or side-street to walk to your desired location is also difficult.
To fix these and other problems, city officials are turning to Craig Watson, a consultant from Washington D.C. who will help city leaders draft a master plan for downtown Dothan. Watson says the first thing the city must do is bring back the city’s inactive redevelopment authority.
"They need to reconstitute the downtown redevelopment authority, because they do have the mechanisms and tools to be able to move a revitalization initiative forward," said Watson.
Mr. Watson also says this kind of group in partnership with other city groups and organizations could work with banks to help provide low interest loans to business owners in the area. A low interest loan is something business owners like Tara Wilson, who runs the “Foster Street Coffee House,” say would help them tremendously.
"It does make a difference between the nine percent interest we pay on our property, versus the two or three percent we could get with a low interest loan... I mean you're talking about hundreds of dollars a month," said Wilson.
Overall, Watson says that downtown Dothan has all the qualities necessary for growth and that all that's left is for there to be a strong commitment to bring change to an ever so stagnant region.
"With backing from the partnership and other entities, I think that the next five years can be an ever changing time here in the downtown area," said Watson.
In the meantime, city leaders say they hope to have a master plan in their hands and ready to unveil to the public by January of 2007.