Updated: Sun, 02/03/2013 - 12:47

CITY TALK: Unrealized potential on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

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The newish Family Dollar on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard opened a few months ago, but I just shopped there for the first time recently.

The building seems an excellent example of the ways in which relatively large retailers can be incorporated into Savannah’s urban landscape.

From the street, the handsome brick structure appears to have two floors, but there’s really just one. The parking lot isn’t hidden by any means, but the entrance crosses the sidewalk and meets the street unobtrusively.

The site plan respects the old urban concept of the “street wall,” which enhances the pedestrian experience.

Family Dollar is just south of the intersection of MLK and Huntingdon Street. As I was wandering around the site, I was struck by how rarely I even travel that stretch of MLK.

The boulevard is not friendly to a bicycle, my usual method of downtown travel.

Just a little south of Family Dollar, vehicular traffic on MLK is separated by a well-intentioned median that offers surprisingly few openings for crossover traffic. That median has changed my driving habits when I’m on the west side of town, and I’m sure others are similarly seeking easier routes.

Family Dollar wasn’t doing much business when I was there, despite a large selection that includes a wide variety of groceries.

It’s worth noting that nearby public housing units have a significant number of vacancies, and the immediate neighborhood has relatively low population density.

And there are also some big question marks nearby.

The city still owns a large vacant lot at the corner of MLK and Hall Street that had been intended for the new cultural arts center.

Across the street from that empty spot sits the shuttered Food Lion. Alderman Van Johnson floated the idea of moving the proposed cultural arts center to the abandoned grocery store, which seems an option worth considering if the project for some reason doesn’t materialize on the current chosen site at MLK and Oglethorpe Avenue.

There are also some vacant and underutilized properties a block away on Montgomery Street.

The proximity to downtown jobs and shopping virtually guarantees that something positive will happen with these empty lots.

The question is when.

With the significant defunding of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority and with the uncertainty about removal of the Interstate 16 flyover, revitalization of that stretch of MLK seems to be on hold, for now.

 

Will ‘CBGB’ be authentic?

Many of us are looking forward to the release of “CBGB” later this year.

The shooting of the film electrified Savannah during the normally slow month of July, and here at City Talk we are intensely curious to see how well Savannah fares as a stand-in for the Bowery and how well a Savannah soundstage evokes the iconic club where punk rock took hold.

During the Q&A following their reading last Tuesday at The Bay Street Theatre, I asked Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain — coauthors of “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk” — for their thoughts on the upcoming movie.

McNeil chuckled about the good looks of Peter Vack, the young actor playing McNeil himself. He made a similar remark about Ashley Greene portraying Lisa Kristal.

He doubted that the consultants would get everything right.

And McNeil told at least one story about routine life at the nightclub that seemed just as fitting for his second book: “The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry.”

Discussing Patti Smith’s refusal to be interviewed for “Please Kill Me,” McNeil made some insightful comments about our tendency to clean up history, to mythologize the down and dirty into something loftier.

The iconic Smith is already on the record as being skeptical of “CBGB,” the movie.

“It seems ridiculous to be filming it,” Patti Smith told an interviewer last year. “You know, what I look forward isn’t to some rehash of what we did a couple of decades ago when a lot of us are still here and still working and still vibrant.”

But we love a good rehash, as evidenced by the enthusiastic crowd at McNeil and McCain’s reading, which was produced by Knocked Out Loaded Concerts. The authors noted they never thought “Please Kill Me” would become popular, much less have the legs (sorry) to be selling briskly more than 15 years after it was published.

Whether McNeil’s assumptions about “CBGB” turn out to be right or wrong, it seems certain that “Please Kill Me” will see another surge in sales when the movie is released.

And more people will be listening to the Ramones, Television and The Stooges.

That can’t be a bad thing.

 

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net and http://www.billdawers.com.

 

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