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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: Broughton Street: What's changed? What hasn't?

I took a long, slow walk down Broughton Street one evening last week. 
 
It’s easy in this job to get caught up in the recent changes to streetscapes and lose sight of the broader long-term trends on a corridor like Broughton. So I periodically try to look at the street with fresh eyes.

CITY TALK: Great early press for 2016 music festival

The Savannah Music Festival is heading into its final days, and it looks as if the 17-day event is having another impressive year.

The crowds have been generally strong, and the shows I’ve attended have featured stellar production values.

CITY TALK: The Vault now open at Bull and 38th

The Vault Kitchen & Market had a soft opening last Wednesday. Or, as it turned out, not so soft.
 
The Vault, at the corner of Bull and 38th streets in a former Bank of America building, is the latest effort from the Savannah restaurant group Ele and the Chef. 
Photo by Visit Savannah.

CITY TALK: Temporary 'better block' planned for Starland

The First Friday Art March on April 1 is notable for a number of reasons.

First off, it’s the 50th first Friday event sponsored by Art Rise Savannah. When the first Art March was held more than four years ago, few would have expected the event would take hold as it has.

CITY TALK: Savannah's employment boom continues

Last week, this column looked at the first two months of crime data for 2016. Those numbers don’t show any improvement over the same period a year ago, but many Savannahians seem willing to trust, at least for now, that new crime-fighting strategies will bear fruit.

We also have two months of employment data for 2016. Those numbers paint a pretty clear picture.

CITY TALK: Touring musicians praise city's beauty, hospitality

At her Savannah Stopover performance in the North Garden at The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum earlier this month, Canadian singer-songwriter Lucette rhapsodized about being in Savannah for the first time. “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my life,” she said between numbers.

I saw several dozen acts at Stopover this year and have attended the three-day festival for six years, so I can say confidently that her feelings have been widely shared by other participating musicians.

CITY TALK: Are new crime-fighting initiatives working?

I don’t think anyone expects that new city policies or the strategic efforts coordinated by Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Jack Lumpkin will have immediate effects. Still, it’s worth checking in occasionally through 2016 on current crime trends to see if we’re making any headway.

For this column, I’m looking at the SCMPD’s crime statistics for the week ending Feb. 27. That gives us about two months worth of data on Part 1 crimes, a broad category that includes violent crimes and property crimes.

 

CITY TALK: St. Patrick's Day policies have hurt the holiday

We can’t change the nature of our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in one fell swoop, but we could make commonsense policy decisions that would emphasize the authentic and de-emphasize the inauthentic aspects of the holiday.

CITY TALK: Removing time limits will boost demand for underutilized on-street parking

The two most recent City Talk columns have considered some of the issues raised by the recently released study that recommends broad changes to parking and mobility in the downtown area.

As I explained a week ago, I’m dubious of plans to extend meter enforcement until 10 p.m. With so many on-street spaces sitting empty on weeknights, it seems like the extra hours of enforcement would just further reduce demand and hurt businesses.

CITY TALK: Mobility study proposes bicycle upgrades

In Sunday’s City Talk, I questioned whether weekday evening demand for on-street parking justifies the proposed extension of meter enforcement to 10 p.m.

It seems clear that evening enforcement will discourage Savannah area residents from going downtown in the evenings when parking is relatively easy to find.

CITY TALK: Does Savannah's parking demand justify enforcement in the evenings?

The city of Savannah has made some common-sense moves to add more on-street parking in the downtown area in recent years, like the major addition of parking on Price Street and the use of angled parking on Park Avenue, but I’ve always wanted to see a more concerted effort to maximize use of street parking.

CITY TALK: Which neighborhoods qualify as economically distressed?

So what are the best criteria to measure the severity of economic distress in various zip codes, cities, counties and states?

CITY TALK: New arena site just might work for growth in our area

In my Tuesday City Talk column, I wrote about the proposed location for Savannah’s new arena.
 
As I noted there, the site is a little over half a mile on foot from the current arena and is within comfortable walking distance of a number of hotels, tourist destinations and SCAD dormitories.

CITY TALK: Revisiting the arena site plan

Over the last several years, many local residents have lost faith in the ability of Savannah city officials to make good decisions regarding land use, property purchases and major construction projects.

CITY TALK: Author shares warning about out-of-control tourism

Elizabeth Becker’s visit to Savannah last week provoked interesting conversations.

Becker is the author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.” The book is credited as being one of the first extended examinations of the worldwide tourism industry, but it’s worth noting that academics have been studying tourism for a long time and in great detail.

CITY TALK: What do we want in new city manager?

Savannah city leaders will soon be considering a contract with an executive search service that will play a vital role in the selection of a new city manager.

Companies have until March 1 to submit their proposals, so I’m assuming we won’t be actively advertising for Stephanie Cutter’s replacement until April or beyond.

Stephanie Cutter

CITY TALK: Bank opens branch in historic Berrien House on Savannah's Broughton Street

Queensborough National Bank & Trust Company recently opened an office at 322 East Broughton St. That’s at the northwest corner of Broughton and Habersham streets.

The new office of the privately held bank focuses on business and professional banking, commercial lending and wealth management services, but the story of the new branch runs much deeper than those simple facts suggest.

CITY TALK: Draft of alcohol ordinance a good read

Savannah city officials recently released yet another draft of the proposed alcohol ordinance rewrite. Before reading my take on the new ordinance, you might want to check it out for yourself. The latest version has the same key concepts and provisions that were in the summer 2015 draft, but the language has been streamlined. It appears about one-third of the words were trimmed from the previous draft.

CITY TALK: Trends to watch for the rest of 2016

With so much news at the beginning of the year, I neglected to devote a column to some of the bigger questions facing Savannah in 2016. So here it is, a little late.

We are all wondering if the new mayor and aldermen will impact the direction of the city, but the first concern is obviously about crime.

What will happen to crime trends in 2016? Will new strategies and better police staffing lead to measurable declines?

CITY TALK: Employment strong in metro area in 2015

In late January, the Georgia Department of Labor released the employment estimates for December, which means we now have a snapshot of the local and statewide labor markets for all of 2015. According to the estimates for payroll employment, the Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 168,300 jobs in December 2014. That number rose 4.1 percent to 175,200 in December 2015.