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Dothan approves design of Opera House renovations; construction should start in 2023

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Construction should begin next year on the first of Dothan’s City Center projects.

During its Tuesday meeting, the Dothan City Commission approved design contracts for two of the projects included in the City Center master plan – renovations to the historic Dothan Opera House and the redesign of Porter Park and creation of an outdoor events plaza.

“This, we think, will be the kickoff of the construction for the City Center,” Dothan City Manager Kevin Cowper said.

Commissioners approved contracts with RDG Planning and Design, the master architect on the City Center project, for the two specific projects. The design contract for the Dothan Opera House is nearly $1.1 million, and the contract for the Porter Park and events plaza is $497,000.

Cowper said construction on the projects is anticipated to begin in 2023.

The design contract for the Dothan Opera House lists the construction budget for renovations at $9 million. A private donor has committed money to cover renovations to the opera house, which include an addition facing Main Street and built on the south side of the opera house. The name of the donor has not been released.

Construction could take around 18 months once it begins, Cowper said. The city manager expects the opera house project to reach a total cost of $10 million to $15 million.

The opera house renovations include upgrades to the building’s HVAC system, audio-visual, lighting and other “back of house” support systems.

RDG will work with local firms on both projects, including architects Seay, Seay & Litchfield for the opera house project and CDG Engineers on both projects.

An addition on the south side of the opera house is intended to provide an expanded lobby and pre-event gatherings as well as additional restrooms, hospitality space, and better interior circulation with stairway improvements.

The RDG contract calls for the addition to be designed in a way that preserves the opera house’s historic character while also working with adjacent micro-park spaces that are part of the City Center concept.

The addition will likely eliminate some of the parking created between buildings facing Main Street and on the south side of the Dothan Opera House. How much is unclear.

“The idea would be to kind of create a presence for the opera house on Main Street,” Cowper said.

Under the second contract, RDG’s work involves the expansion of Porter Park by creating a more visible connection to Foster Street as well as areas for small events, improved plantings and irrigation, and unique lighting. The design will also integrate art and unique furniture. A portion of Porter Park behind the Cochran Firm is actually owned by local attorney Keith Givens, and Cowper said the city will only improve the portion the city owns.

The Houston County Commission committed $1 million for the downtown green space and events plaza from the funds the county received through the American Rescue Plan Act. The total construction budget for that project is around $6.2 million. The events plaza will be located next to the opera house on the north side of the building where the Dothan Utilities customer service center is currently located. That center will be moved.

For the events plaza, the design will incorporate water features, outdoor dining and entrances to adjacent private properties. There will be improvements to Scouts Trail Alley and a stage area for outdoor performances in the design.

The events plaza will also have a visible connection to St. Andrews Street with expanded sidewalks, traffic calming improvements, pedestrian crossings, and street trees.

Peggy Ussery is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at aussery@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7963. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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