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SEDA awards engineering contract on new manufacturing park

The Savannah Economic Development Authority on Tuesday awarded the engineering contract for its new, 685-acre manufacturing park on Old River Road in west Chatham County to Savannah firms Thomas & Hutton and Hussey Gay Bell, approving an initial expenditure of $35,000 for Phase I of the project.

The two legacy firms collaborated as a team to win the bid over a firm from Greenville, S.C.

Phase I will consist of conceptual work, confirmation of system demands and preliminary design, said Pat Monahan, SEDA’s project manager for the development.

The property, which encompasses the Newton Tract and 50 percent of the Durrence Tract adjacent to Interstate 16, is master-planned for between 3.25 million and 3.5 million square feet of industrial building space. Authority president and CEO Trip Tollison said development of the new park will give SEDA the much-needed industrial property and greater flexibility to entice manufacturing to Savannah.

SEDA chairman Steve Green agreed.

“When I came in as chairman last year, Trip and I made this our top priority – to locate a piece of property like this that we could buy and dedicate to manufacturing facilities,” he said. “To get the kinds of high paying jobs the city and county needs, we have to have pad-ready sites available when opportunities come up.”

From SPLOST to shovel-ready

The purchase of the property was made possible through the county’s one-cent special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VI, approved by voters in November 2013. In return for SEDA’s support for the tax, it was understood that the development authority would receive between $15 million and $30 million to acquire, develop and permit a new industrial park.

Because the property was acquired — and will be developed — with county SPLOST funds, SEDA has made a point of following the county’s bid processes, Monahan said.

The advantage of the property, Monahan told the SEDA board Tuesday, is in the fact that — while it is raw land — all the zoning, permitting, road construction plans, basic engineering documents and approvals have been done

The Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Planning Committee approved the property’s zoning and site plan several years ago.

“All of this should allow us to have this property shovel-ready by the end of 2018.”

Although the property’s master plan includes a number of smaller parcels, the centerpiece is a 194-acre manufacturing park with the ability to accommodate a 1.3 million-square-foot building, Monahan said. Adjacent to that is a 170-acre parcel capable of supporting nearly 990,000 square feet.

“To put that into perspective, he said, Gulfstream is located on 150 acres and supports 750,000 square feet of buildable area. Mitsubishi is 330,000 square feet.

“Of course, these parcels could be divided,” he said. “But that gives you an idea of just how large these parcels are and the flexibility this property offers SEDA for future marketing.”

In other SEDA business, Beth Nelson, executive director of the Savannah Area Film Office, reported that for the second year in a row, Savannah was named the No. 1 best place to live and work as a moviemaker in the small cities category.

In a review of other 2016 highlights, the film office – a partnership between SEDA, the City of Savannah and Chatham County – noted that Savannah landed its first television series (the second season of “Underground,” which premieres on WGN this month), worked with 104 professional and 176 student projects and launched a new website – www.savannahfilm.org.

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