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Streetscape project remains finishing touch

As developer Ben Carter’s restoration and construction project on Broughton Street project nears its end, one of the final pieces of bringing the street back to life as a downtown shopping destination will be upgrading the streetscape, according to Quito Anderson, CEO of Ben Carter Enterprises.

The city of Savannah approved an almost $2.2 million contract with design firm EDSA last August along with another $8 million in bonds to pay for improvements along Broughton, Bay and River streets.

Several public meetings were held in order to get feedback from stakeholders and residents. In March EDSA presented proposals for each street based on the feedback, which includes both historical and coastal elements.

“The city has been great and they’ve included us in all the conversations. They wanted to get the opinion of the merchants on the street and some of the land owners, so we’ve actively involved with the vested parties in planning,” he said.

“It’s hard to get a 1,000 people’s opinions and put them into a plan, but they’ve done a great job.”

The plans recently presented by EDSA for Broughton Street, which will be upgraded first, include widened sidewalks, bike racks, café seating and enhanced crosswalks. The city hopes to break ground on the improvements in early 2018.

Carter presented streetscape ideas when he initially outlined his project in 2014, some of the specs included grand arched entryways, corner planters, yellow-brick and “Abbey Road” painted crosswalks and while some ideas were better received than others, Anderson feels like it helped get the conversation going and garner new ideas of what would work best for Broughton, which the city had been working on since 2009.

“I think that it got everyone’s mind thinking about improving the street,” Anderson said of the early plans.

“I know it wasn’t a priority to the last mayor, although she thought it was important it wasn’t a priority. Mayor DeLoach has done an incredible job of coming in and making that one of his number one things.”

The streetscape plans come as the city is also looking to reconfigure parking regulations downtown, which could possibly extended meters into the evening hours and weekends based on recommendations by Atlanta-based consulting group Nelson/Nygaard.

If the city moves ahead with the changes, it will bring about 2,000 new meters and a mobile app service that would allow users to pay for parking using their smart phones.

If approved, recommendations aren’t expected to take effect until 2018, but even with the possible changes, Anderson said he doesn’t think it will have a negative effect on retailers along Broughton.

“I don’t think parking has been a major inhibitor to traffic on the street, however, I would like to improve it,” he said, adding that he’s taken his idea of implementing a valet service to city officials, who have been receptive to the idea.

“We’re in the process of meeting with operators to get that in place and one of our goals has been to re-introduce Broughton Street to the locals and I think that would be a key part.”

Parking also hasn’t been an area of concern to most those renting from the Broughton Street Collection. Anderson estimates that half or slightly more of the tenants don’t own a car and a lot of them also work on Broughton Street or downtown, so it’s easy to get around without a car.

“That’s not an amenity to (the apartments). This is urban living. … That’s one of the beauties about Broughton Street; I think the walkability score is 98 percent, so it doesn’t get much better than that,” he said.

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