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Bill Dawers

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday - Email me. Send mail to 10 East 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

CITY TALK: Impressive job gains continue for Savannah economy

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.

CITY TALK: Green Fire Pizza now serving on Drayton Street

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)

CITY TALK: Savannah hotel moratorium’s lasting impact unclear

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.”
 
Bill Dawers

CITY TALK: New report finds flaws, successes in hurricane response

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.

CITY TALK: Savannah Music Festival influence continues even after concerts end

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)

CITY TALK: Bay Street redesign removes some parking spaces, widens sidewalks

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.

CITY TALK: Don’t expect progress on calming Whitaker, Drayton

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.

CITY TALK: Proposals could better balance downtown residents, tourists

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.

CITY TALK: Final Broughton streetscape plan appears to serve well

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.

CITY TALK: Dueling petitions over alcohol sales in Thomas Square

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.

CITY TALK: Crowds large and small for St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah

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)

CITY TALK: Proposed ACA replacement might have limited impact on Savannah economy

As I write this, we don’t know if the bill intended to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) will be changed significantly before becoming law. In fact, it remains unclear if the bill, which was proposed just a couple weeks ago, even has sufficient Republican support to get through the U.S. House of Representatives. Still, I was immediately curious how the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would impact the Savannah economy.

CITY TALK: Savannah Stopover capitalizes on history, diversity, proximity

The seventh annual Savannah Stopover Music Festival took place last weekend with about 85 artists performing in venues in the northern portion of the Landmark Historic District. There are certainly other cities with tightly clustered entertainment districts, but few if any cities would suit a festival like Stopover better than Savannah does.

CITY TALK: Proposed Savannah River Landing master plan raises hard questions

On March 14, the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission will consider new plans and possibilities for the Savannah River Landing site at the east end of River Street. According to reporting by Eric Curl last week, Savannah River Landing Land JV, LLC, plans to purchase the 56-acre property if the prospective buyers can get approval for a new master plan for residential, retail, hotel and office development.

CITY TALK: Other streets, problems merit attention, too

The three most recent City Talk columns have detailed the preliminary design proposals for the streetscapes of Broughton, Bay and River streets by the Florida-based landscape architecture firm EDSA. he EDSA team will present the final conceptual designs from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 23 in the auditorium of the Coastal Georgia Center. It will be an important meeting, for sure, but I don’t know how much public input will be considered at this point.

CITY TALK: Is River Street even a street anymore?

In several recent City Talk columns, I detailed the progress of the Savannah Downtown Streetscape Improvement Initiative, an $8 million project to enhance the design and safety of Broughton, Bay and River streets. Today, let’s take a quick look at the preliminary plans for River Street and to the public reaction to those plans at a recent meeting at the Coastal Georgia Center.

CITY TALK: Bay Street redesign has (too) many goals

Sunday’s City Talk looked at the preliminary design created by the landscape architecture firm EDSA for the streetscape on Broughton Street. Today, let’s take a look at the Florida-based firm’s plans for Bay Street. The general proposals for Broughton, Bay and River streets were presented last week in a series of meetings with stakeholders and members of the public.

Bay Street coastal streetscape plans.

CITY TALK: Broughton streetscape debate centers on trees, lighting

On three evenings last week, planners from the Florida-based firm EDSA publicly unveiled their preliminary streetscape designs for Broughton, Bay and River streets.

CITY TALK: Following Pokemon Go’s evolution

After the introduction of Pokemon Go in summer 2016, I wrote a column about the ways in which the augmented reality game might impact local residents’ and visitors’ interactions with Savannah’s built environment. What have we learned in the last six months?

CITY TALK: Another day, another near miss on Drayton Street

“I’ve seen this play out a million times where one car stops and the car in the other lane doesn’t,” Rose said of the incident. “Most pedestrians having seen the first car stop are lulled into a false sense of security.” The pedestrian turned out to be an older woman using a walker. Rose’s car was rear-ended, but thankfully no one was injured. Similar scenes happen routinely on Drayton and Whitaker streets.