Howell School Development Progressing

By: Devon Sellers Email
By: Devon Sellers Email

Dothan, AL - Built in the early 1900s the Howell School was Dothan's main grammar school until 1942. Now, the building on Newton Street sits vacant.

"They aren't doing anything to it. It's just been sitting here. They ought to do something to it instead of letting it sit here and waste away," said Bobby Ray Anliang, Dothan.

The Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority is trying. Through a partnership between Joe Donofro Architects and the Bennett Group out of Opelika, this could become a low-income senior living development.

"Take that historic building, the Howell School a historic beautiful building, renovate it and create a campus all around that structure of bungalows and senior services," said Jansen Tidmore, Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority Executive Director.

They're willing to invest about $14 million into this property. They are still in about a year long development phase, but Wednesday the DDRA agreed on a real estate property purchase.

"What that allows us to do is to take the next step for a couple of those properties we're wanting to acquire for them, and it sets up the means for transfer and terms for that transfer when time comes along," said Tidmore.

Area residents are ready for that time to come along.

"Grew up right across the street from this building. This is the historic area of Dothan. When I grew up there used to be cars in this parking lot. It's been vacant for a while. Some of the buildings are eyesores, but this building isn't really an eyesore. It just needs minor repairs. A minor investment," said Stephenson Harvey, Dothan.

At $14 million, that's not quite minor. However, many say preserving the city's history is worth it.

"You just can't help but smile when you look at these pictures and you see what used to be. There are so few of those buildings left in our community. Some towns have an abundance of them. They've got great old buildings and a lot of historic nature everywhere you look. Dothan doesn't. We've got a handful. This is one of those. When you've just got a handful, you've got to do everything you can to make those functional so we can continue to celebrate the past," said Tidmore.

Adjacent properties are part of the planned development. For the next step, the City of Dothan must transfer those properties to the DDRA.

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