It will not take Darrin Swan, who owns Mural City Coffee Co. with his wife, Gina, long to take advantage of Dothan’s new ordinance aimed at encouraging downtown business growth.
“We’re gonna get our plans over this week or maybe sometime next week,” Swan said of the city’s new public space use agreement, which the Dothan City Commission approved this week.
The agreement allows business owners in the downtown area to use some of the public sidewalk space to promote or expand their operations. For example downtown cafes could place a few tables outside once their applications gained city approval.
Swan believes the agreement could provide a better customer experience and a few more sales for his South Foster Street business.
“This gives us outdoor seating because we don’t have green space,” he said. “It’ll be more pet-friendly. We have a lot of people that come down here with dogs. One will wait outside, while another goes in and gets the drinks. This gives them an opportunity to stick around longer.”
Businesses interested in expanding into the public space will submit an application to the city about their plans and must include a rough sketch of how much space they plan to use. Businesses must provide enough space for maneuverability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
City Manager Kevin Cowper said the sketch will not require businesses to hire professional help to design, which would be an expense for the businesses.
The businesses also must provide liability insurance coverage and include the city as a second insurer on the policy.
“From what we’ve read, it’s an easy process,” Swan said.
The commission also approved the Commercial Development Incentive Program this week, an effort meant to spearhead redevelopment of some business districts and shopping areas along major corridors inside Ross Clark Circle. Under the program, the city will repay some of the businesses’ sales tax remittances if they revitalize a downtrodden area along the city’s major corridors like U.S. Highway 84 (Main Street), U.S. Highway 431 (Reeves Street) and U.S. Highway 231 (North and South Oates streets).
The program requires businesses to invest in the properties first before the city issues the rebates. If the business fails to generate a certain amount of tax revenue, or shuts down, the city will reduce or cancel the rebates.
Since the program encourages new business, it generates more sales tax revenue sources — resulting in more money for the city, Cowper said in an Oct. 15 discussion about the program.
“If you can bring a restaurant into a vacant building and generate sales tax revenue — even though you are rebating some of it — you are collecting new taxes, business license taxes, property taxes that you are not currently getting,” he said.