Despite a few concerns about overall compatibility, the Savannah Historic Review Board approved the height and mass of a new parking garage and event space for the Trustees’ Garden lot on Wednesday.
The 3-1/2-story structure will occupy the area that currently serves as a parking lot for the Charles H. Morris Center behind the Pirates’ House, which is setback from all public rights-of-way, although the building will be visible from surrounding streets including East Broad, East Bay and East Broughton Streets. The structure is divided into two masses that are connected overhead by three vehicular bridges.
The garage will be owned and operated by developer Charles Morris and his Randolph Street Development firm.
The board first reviewed the project in July, but voted to continue it so the petitioner, LS3P Dawson Architects, could address concerns including, redesigning the west façade, reduce automobile entrances and adding additional pedestrian entrances on the North façade.
“They basically redesigned the entire structure,” Leah Michalak, said presenting the staff report.
“... The previous proposal was a 35,000 square-foot foot print, between the two buildings, now it’s about 26,000 square-feet, so the footprint has been reduced significantly.”
While the consensus among the board was that the design had been drastically improved, several members sited reservations about such a large structure. In the board’s 5-2 vote, Justin Gunther and Debra Caldwell voted against the approval and fellow member Jennifer Deacon, recused herself from the hearing.
“I feel the building is just out of scale with the character of the surroundings... I think the design has greatly improved in terms of the massing,” Gunther said.
“I just worry about turning over a building of this scale, this will become the primary focus of that area because of it’s scale...”
Representing the Historic Savannah Foundation, Danielle Meunier — who was the only member of the public to speak during the public comment period — said while the design presented on Wednesday was improved from the previous concept, HSF still believes the building isn’t appropriate for the area.
“HSF maintains our position that a parking garage, particularly one that towers over surrounding historic buildings is not appropriate for the location. Overall we do think that the building’s scale is still too large both in height and mass...” Meunier said.
Design details will be presented to the HRB board at a later date. The height and mass petition will now move to City Council for consideration.