Updated: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 08:25

CITY TALK: A long look at the Cay Building on Savannah's Ellis Square

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One chilly day last week, I had a late and satisfying lunch at the new Moe’s Southwest Grill in the Cay Building on Ellis Square.

The restaurant occupies the southwest portion of the new office building’s ground floor. Most of Moe’s windows look south across St. Julian Street, but I enjoyed sitting at a counter facing Ellis Square.

Even on a gray afternoon, it’s a beautiful view, with so many visible layers from Savannah’s rich architectural history.

Moe’s is keeping pretty long hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Those late weekend hours should be especially profitable in the spring, when the days are longer and more folks are out at the clubs.

Moe’s is exceptionally well designed for such a relatively narrow urban space. The restaurant also has half a dozen tables outside under handsome, newly planted palm trees.

The yogurt shop Veri Berri occupies the northwest portion of the Cay Building’s ground floor. Much of the rest of the street level is home to the spacious offices of First Citizens Bank.

The architecture of the Cay Building offers a variety of ground level entry points. The long windows let folks see both in and out.

The architectural details — the old-fashioned metal awnings, the engraved street names, the combination of materials, the varying size of the windows — enhance the pedestrian experience in a way that most of downtown’s newer builders do not.

The grand entryway on the Ellis Square side is open during the day. I’d encourage readers to wander into the rotunda, with its large photos of Savannah commerce, and to walk down the hall, which features enlarged prints of Savannah scenes drawn by the late artist Christopher Murphy.

The Cay Building’s architecture is just as satisfying from a distance as it is up close.

I’ve heard some squawking about how the building obstructs views, but the height is perfectly in keeping with its neighbors. The narrow footprint of the historic trust lot prevents the kind of blocky construction so common in modern office buildings.

I especially like how the verticality of the windows echoes the form of the entire structure. The rhythm feels just right.

There are five new palms on the north side of the building too, along Bryan Street.

Why haven’t we used more palms in narrow spots like that?

It’s worth adding that the presence of offices on the Cay Building’s upper floors will help diversify the economy around Ellis Square.

Tourism and nightlife drive much of the business around the square right now. The addition of office workers should serve as both a balance and a complement.

The rather lengthy construction of the Cay Building disrupted some businesses in the immediate area. Thankfully, the work is done and the warmth of the building should draw traffic rather than repel it.

 

Spoleto 2013 lineup includes several SMF veterans

The featured musicians at next spring’s Spoleto Festival in Charleston include Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Punch Brothers and the Red Stick Ramblers.

I suspect those names sound more than a little familiar to many readers.

Fleck, Washburn and Punch Brothers have been Savannah Music Festival favorites in years past. The Red Stick Ramblers are playing two Cajun dance parties at the 2013 music festival.

Spoleto will also feature Rosanne Cash. The 2013 Savannah Music Festival lineup includes Cash’s former husband Rodney Crowell performing with Emmylou Harris, with the great Richard Thompson opening.

Savannahians used to look upon Spoleto with envy. I’m sure some still do.

At the same time, I’m sure some Charlestonians envy us and our stellar music festival, which has lower ticket prices and more intimate venues than Spoleto.

Founded in 1977, Spoleto obviously has a long track record and includes large doses of dance, opera and theatre.

But if you placed the Savannah Music Festival and Spoleto programs side by side and told potential visitors that they could only attend one, we’d do pretty well.

Still, I’m routinely surprised to find bright local residents who have not attended any music festival shows and are only dimly aware of its existence. They’ll rhapsodize about other cities, but they aren’t even seeing the greatness in their own backyard.

It’s a puzzle.

 

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net and http://www.billdawers.com. Send mail to 10 East 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.

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