Savannah City Council is poised to consider a new “fee” that would add 25 cents to most sales tax eligible purchases over $10 in the busiest portions of downtown. The revenue would fund Savannah Serves, an ambassadorial program that was created, according to the official website. We could debate the merits of the program, but it certainly has laudable goals of assisting visitors, beautifying downtown and providing more resources for public safety.
Last Wednesday evening, about 100 Savannah residents participated in the District 2 meeting at the Savannah Civic Center to gather input for Savannah Forward, a strategic planning process that is one of the most important initiatives launched since the hiring of City Manager Rob Hernandez.
At the most recent Savannah City Council meeting, the mayor and aldermen approved many parts of a downtown parking overhaul, but they limited the changes to areas north of Liberty Street. The results are a mixed bag.
Regular readers of this newspaper are probably familiar with the major hotel developments in the works at the west end of River Street. If you haven’t walked down there in a while, you should take a look at the current state of the project.
I hope readers of this column have already filled out the online survey for the city of Savannah’s new Tourism Management Plan. If you haven’t gotten to it yet, you have until May 14 to complete the survey. City officials have also undertaken Savannah Forward, an ambitious process to determine citizens’ priorities.
The city and several other organizations are working on a tourism management plan. The surge in tourism over the last few years has raised some hard questions about Savannah’s past, present and future, and small choices that we make today could have profound impacts in the coming decades.
From comments I routinely receive, I know that some readers of this column think that downtown is always overflowing with tourists, cars and demand for on-street parking. Apparently, a number of key city officials are under the same impression.
According to the latest estimates from the Georgia Department of Labor, the Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 180,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in March, an increase of 6,700 jobs from March 2016.
We’ve seen a flurry of activity in recent weeks for the Savannah restaurant scene. Several promising new spots have expanded the options for residents and visitors in the downtown area. The newer establishments include Green Fire Pizza at 236 Drayton St., the vegan restaurant Natural Selections Café at 1526 Bull St., the coffee shop and bakery Henny Penny Art Space & Café at 1514 Bull St. and Fork & Dagger, a breakfast and lunch spot at 609 ½ Abercorn St.
Green Fire Pizza at 236 Drayton St. (Image from Green Fire Pizza Facebook page)
Savannah City Council pulled the trigger last week on a 90-day moratorium on large hotels across a broad swath of the downtown area. The resolution says the reason for the moratorium is to give city officials some time “to study the interaction of such hotels with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Last week, the Chatham Emergency Management Association release a 34-page report examining the local response to Hurricane Matthew. Reporter Mary Landers provided some excellent coverage of the report in last week’s newspaper. I encourage readers to take a look at that article.
Just before “Stringband Spectacular” on the final Friday of the Savannah Music Festival, a polling firm was asking audience members about their festival experiences. The couple sitting behind me had come to town for six days of shows.
Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News) Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News) Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)
During the current economic expansion, we are getting glimpses of Savannah’s future. Hotel projects are already transforming the west end of River Street, and we’re likely to see more investment in the area north of Bay Street and west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
As many of you know from reading previous coverage in this newspaper, Kevin Klinkenberg of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority gave a presentation about traffic calming on Drayton and Whitaker streets at the most recent workshop session of Savannah City Council.
The need for greater residential density in Savannah’s downtown area has been a recurring theme of this column for 17 years, so I’m thrilled that the current city administration seems prepared to take substantive action on this long-standing problem.
Last week, dozens of interested Savannahians gathered at the Coastal Georgia Center for the presentation of the almost-final design plans for Broughton, Bay and River streets. The meeting marked an important milestone in the ongoing work of the Florida-based landscape architecture firm EDSA.
Final images of Broughton streetscaping plan from EDSA. Streets would include parking, more trees and wider sidewalks with cafe areas. Bikes would share lanes with autos.
I’ve written here repeatedly about the zoning crisis in West Savannah. For years, neighborhood activists have tried in vain to get the area rezoned, but efforts stalled, largely because of inaction by Savannah city officials. The lack of substantive action on zoning – the term we use for what uses are allowed in what places — led directly to the mess surrounding The Stage on Bay.
I hope everyone had a safe and fun St. Patrick’s Day, but keep in mind that the holiday isn’t quite over. The traditional post-St. Paddy’s Irish Road Bowling Tournament is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 25. The tournament takes place on the old racetrack on Hutchinson Island. Who knew that rolling a metal ball down the road could be so much fun?
Johnson Square is pictured just before the 2017 Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade rounds the corner from Bay Street to head south. (Dash Coleman/Savannah Morning News)