Ford Malone developers cope with vandalism, trespassing problems | Daily News Byte

Ford Malone developers cope with vandalism, trespassing problems

 | Daily News Byte

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Since renovations began on the historic Malone Motor Company building, the developers have had to deal with their share of setbacks.

The latest was a brick thrown through one of the building’s large double-paned windows. This happened on a weekend when the workers were not in the area. A witness said a man threw a brick through the window – twice – and then ran away. The brick opened the outer pane but not the inner pane of the window.

This is the second window to be replaced, said Joel Castillo, one of the developers in the project.

“We’re tallying, just on glass, $40,000,” Castillo said.

Despite the setbacks, Castillo said he is still focused on progress. Castillo still hopes to have the units ready by January.

“I really believe in revitalization, but it’s hard,” Castillo said. “We still believe in downtown revitalization, but these things are really slowing down development and slowing down the redevelopment of not only our projects but downtown.”

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The concept behind the Ford Malone project is a unique apartment lifestyle in a historic building. A main entrance leads to a series of one-, two- and three-bedroom units covering square footages of up to 2,200 square feet. There are plans for communal spaces for tenants to use – a garden and even a reading nook inside the large safe once used by Malone Motors.

Hoping to attract young professionals who want to live downtown, rents can exceed $1,000 per month for larger units.

The Malone building, located at the corner of South St. Andrews and East Crawford streets, was last used as St. Andrew’s Market. When the 1920 building housed the Malone Motor Company there was a showroom as well as equipment for the assembly of Ford Model T cars.

The development certainly fits with the City of Dothan’s efforts to create a downtown where people can live, work and play. The City Center project, a downtown entertainment district, and the creation of the 84 East Corridor overlay district all reflect the city’s hopes for downtown.

But Castillo looks at other downtown properties that have experienced problems and worries that all the work to renovate the Malone building could be for naught if vandalism and violations continue. There is also a perception cost when people see damage to buildings, he said.

Another apartment development in downtown Dothan at the old Town Terrace Inn on North Oates Street experienced setbacks earlier this year with two fires about a month apart – both caused by arson. The suspects in each of those fires — both described as homeless — were arrested.

Castillo believes some of the people trespassing and causing damage to the Malone building may be transient or homeless people living downtown. Castillo said that until the root problem is addressed, problems can continue for developers like him who are trying to renovate a building that has been empty for years.

The Dothan Police Department did a good job of responding when called, Castillo said. The cameras have helped prevent thefts and trespasses by alerting developers when someone is on the property. Castillo said there are at least five instances of trespassing a month.

Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba said he thinks the redevelopment of downtown properties and the city’s plans for downtown street lighting will go a long way toward curbing problems like vandalism and trespassing.

“I have to believe that as we continue to do more work and have more growth in the downtown area and more lights and more people, the less vandalism that happens,” Saliba said. “… I see that as a trend that’s less because more people are in the downtown area shopping and living and eating on a daily basis. I don’t see that as something that gets worse; I think it only gets better with time.”

Castillo said he hopes he and other downtown property owners can come together and work with the City of Dothan and the Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority to come up with some workable solutions.

“I think it’s really important to stop putting your head in the sand and try to figure out a way for us to coexist and achieve what we all want, which is to revitalize downtown,” Castillo said.

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

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