BiS: - Business news for the creative coast.

Bill Dawers

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

CITY TALK: Poverty data shows need for bold action

Eric Curl’s article on Sunday about the persistence of high poverty rates in Savannah caught my attention, and I hope it caught your attention, too. As Eric noted, Savannah had a 26.5 percent poverty rate in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. It’s been over a year since the last time City Talk looked closely at the numbers, so this seems like a good time to consider some of the data beyond the headline rate.

CITY TALK: Transportation tax vote could bring complicated decision

State lawmakers are considering major pieces of legislation that could have significant impacts for Savannah. As regular readers of this newspaper know, legislators might vote to allow some sort of casino gambling in the state. In recent years, Savannah has been discussed as a possible casino location, so we need to follow the various proposals closely.

CITY TALK: Savannah’s zoning crisis is here. Now.

The wonderful and dark 2016 film “Christine,” which was filmed in Savannah, tells the story of Christine Chubbuck, a troubled journalist who worked in Florida in the 1970s.

CITY TALK: Expect fewer locals at St. Patrick’s day festival after wristband fee increase

In many respects, St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah shows the city at its best. In the coming weeks, we’ll see a host of traditional events — formal ceremonies, family gatherings, celebrations of heritage. Some events will be solemn and religious, some will be raucous and secular, and many will fall somewhere in between.

Crowd dances to the live music on Rousakis Plaza on River Street. 1999 / bob morris photo.

CITY TALK: New charter school, Savannah Philharmonic enliven Bull Street

The Bull Street corridor south of Forsyth Park is usually quiet on Sunday afternoons.
But not last Sunday.
The Savannah Philharmonic hosted “Philharmonic in the Streetz” at Tricks Barbecue at the corner of Bull and 42nd streets. There was such a good crowd that I forgot to do my usual event headcount.

CITY TALK: Existing processes pit developers, residents against each other

In recent months, we’ve seen several high-profile examples of residents trying to limit commercial development in their neighborhoods. Neighborhood residents have opposed attempts by hoteliers to reduce restrictions for specific projects on Liberty and Drayton streets. Parkside residents have been increasingly vocal about proposed developments along East Victory Drive.

CITY TALK: Recent streetscape meeting presents problematic options

Last week, more than 100 engaged citizens attended the second in a series of meetings to discuss streetscape upgrades for Broughton, Bay and River streets.
The design firm EDSA is spearheading the Savannah Downtown Streetscape Improvement Initiative, which is being funded by $8 million in city bonds.

CITY TALK: Savannah’s economy today vs. 2008

How has the Savannah economy changed during the Obama presidency? Before I give some wonky answers to that question, I should note that U.S. presidents are frequently given too much credit and too much blame for economic shifts that happen on their watch.

CITY TALK: Looking back at our 2009 economy

This is the last City Talk column of the Obama years. Can you even remember 2009? The national economy was in freefall by the time of the 2008 general election, but many Americans couldn’t imagine how much damage the financial crisis and housing bust would do.

CITY TALK: Neighborhood vitality should be part of Savannah vision

As a columnist who has been writing about civic issues for many years, I think we need a much clearer focus on neighborhood vitality and quality of life.

CITY TALK: Proposed merger will likely benefit Savannah economy

In Sunday’s City Talk, I mentioned the possibility of surprises for the Savannah area economy in 2017. We got one of those surprises after that column was written but before it was published. As you probably know by now, the Board of Regents is poised to vote this week on the proposed merger of Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University.

CITY TALK: Let's be optimistic about 2017

Savannah seems to have entered the new year with a curious mix of apprehension and optimism. Count me among the optimists, although it probably wouldn’t take much to send me to the dark side.

CITY TALK: Hotel fight shows need for long-term strategy

Developers of the planned West Elm hotel on Drayton Street recently agreed to limit the proposed building to four stories. That height is allowed under the current map, and the hotel use is also allowed under current zoning. The hotel developers had wanted to take advantage of a provision in the zoning code that allows some buildings to have an extra story if they have ground floor retail uses, but a five-story structure required a different interpretation of the zoning district.

CITY TALK: Proposed new 'fee' fraught with problems

At last week’s meeting of Savannah City Council, the mayor and aldermen delayed the first reading of an ordinance that would have allowed for a 25-cent fee to be added to every sales tax-eligible transaction over $10 in a portion of downtown.

CITY TALK: 2016 brought good changes, too

I’ve learned a lot of things about Savannah and Savannahians in the 16 years that I’ve been writing this column. For one, the vast majority of Savannah residents care deeply about their city and their neighborhoods.

CITY TALK: City leaders weigh budget options

In last Tuesday’s City Talk, I argued that the city support should continue for a variety of reasons – as a statement of community values, as a way to encourage innovation and creativity, as a tool for promoting economic vitality.
Due to revenue shortfalls, city staff recently recommended reducing the size of the 2017 grants to these outside organizations.

CITY TALK: New Montgomery Street apartment brings added density to Historic District

As I was taking an evening stroll last week, I noticed for the first time that many of the lights are on at The Bowery Apartments at 515 Montgomery St. The Bowery isn’t occupied yet, but it will be soon. Some readers will disagree, but I think the complex has an appropriate scale, style and density for the neighborhood.

CITY TALK: Proposed budget cuts raise larger questions

We’ve had many interesting public controversies in 2016, and we’re finishing the year with another one. City of Savannah officials tried to fill some last-minute budget holes by cutting funding for various nonprofit groups that work broadly in areas of arts, culture and social services.

CITY TALK: City kicks off initiative to redesign streetscapes for Broughton, Bay, River streets

City officials contracted earlier this year with the design firm EDSA to upgrade the streetscapes of Broughton, Bay and River streets.

CITY TALK: What will replace two of Savannah's 'bathroom tile' buildings?

As Jan Skutch reported last week in this newspaper, the U.S. Congress has approved nearly $100 million for final repairs to the grand Tomochichi Federal Building and Courthouse on Wright Square and for construction of a new annex on the east side of Telfair Square.