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City Talk

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday - Email me. Send mail to 10 East 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

CITY TALK: Buckle up — summer’s here

Summer doesn’t officially begin for a few weeks, but Savannah’s summer break has begun. A decade or so ago, the ending of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s spring quarter was like the flipping of a light switch for the downtown area. Everything would be busy one week, and then the city would be much quieter the next.

CITY TALK: Revisiting ideas for Meldrim Row

At a Savannah City Council workshop session last month, Mayor Eddie DeLoach objected to the design for the new Central Precinct, which is planned for the east side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near 33rd and 34th streets. The large site has been sitting empty for over two years.

CITY TALK: Local jobs estimates suggest continued growth

The latest estimates from the Georgia Department of Labor suggest that Savannah’s employment boom is continuing. According to the data, the Savannah metropolitan statistical area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 179,700 payroll jobs in April. That’s 3,900 more jobs than in April 2016, a 2.2 percent increase.

CITY TALK: ‘Fee’ would burden downtown residents, workers, businesses

Savannah City Council is poised to consider a new “fee” that would add 25 cents to most sales tax eligible purchases over $10 in the busiest portions of downtown. The revenue would fund Savannah Serves, an ambassadorial program that was created, according to the official website. We could debate the merits of the program, but it certainly has laudable goals of assisting visitors, beautifying downtown and providing more resources for public safety.

Bill Dawers

CITY TALK: District 2 stakeholders share visions for city

Last Wednesday evening, about 100 Savannah residents participated in the District 2 meeting at the Savannah Civic Center to gather input for Savannah Forward, a strategic planning process that is one of the most important initiatives launched since the hiring of City Manager Rob Hernandez.

CITY TALK: Winners, losers in parking overhaul

At the most recent Savannah City Council meeting, the mayor and aldermen approved many parts of a downtown parking overhaul, but they limited the changes to areas north of Liberty Street. The results are a mixed bag.

Bill Dawers

CITY TALK: Developments east, south of downtown worth attention

Regular readers of this newspaper are probably familiar with the major hotel developments in the works at the west end of River Street. If you haven’t walked down there in a while, you should take a look at the current state of the project.

CITY TALK: Broughton shopping gets USA Today notice

For many years, Savannah has received more national press than a city of our size could reasonably expect. Just consider USA Today’s “10 great American shopping streets,” which was published on May 5.

CITY TALK: Savannah Forward could align priorities of city government, residents

I hope readers of this column have already filled out the online survey for the city of Savannah’s new Tourism Management Plan. If you haven’t gotten to it yet, you have until May 14 to complete the survey. City officials have also undertaken Savannah Forward, an ambitious process to determine citizens’ priorities.

CITY TALK: Participate in tourism survey or get missed

The city and several other organizations are working on a tourism management plan. The surge in tourism over the last few years has raised some hard questions about Savannah’s past, present and future, and small choices that we make today could have profound impacts in the coming decades.

CITY TALK: Proposal to enforce parking meters until 8 p.m. raises tough questions

From comments I routinely receive, I know that some readers of this column think that downtown is always overflowing with tourists, cars and demand for on-street parking. Apparently, a number of key city officials are under the same impression.

CITY TALK: Impressive job gains continue for Savannah economy

According to the latest estimates from the Georgia Department of Labor, the Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 180,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in March, an increase of 6,700 jobs from March 2016.

CITY TALK: Green Fire Pizza now serving on Drayton Street

We’ve seen a flurry of activity in recent weeks for the Savannah restaurant scene. Several promising new spots have expanded the options for residents and visitors in the downtown area. The newer establishments include Green Fire Pizza at 236 Drayton St., the vegan restaurant Natural Selections Café at 1526 Bull St., the coffee shop and bakery Henny Penny Art Space & Café at 1514 Bull St. and Fork & Dagger, a breakfast and lunch spot at 609 ½ Abercorn St.

Green Fire Pizza at 236 Drayton St. (Image from Green Fire Pizza Facebook page)

CITY TALK: Savannah hotel moratorium’s lasting impact unclear

Savannah City Council pulled the trigger last week on a 90-day moratorium on large hotels across a broad swath of the downtown area. The resolution says the reason for the moratorium is to give city officials some time “to study the interaction of such hotels with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Bill Dawers

CITY TALK: New report finds flaws, successes in hurricane response

Last week, the Chatham Emergency Management Association release a 34-page report examining the local response to Hurricane Matthew. Reporter Mary Landers provided some excellent coverage of the report in last week’s newspaper. I encourage readers to take a look at that article.

CITY TALK: Savannah Music Festival influence continues even after concerts end

Just before “Stringband Spectacular” on the final Friday of the Savannah Music Festival, a polling firm was asking audience members about their festival experiences. The couple sitting behind me had come to town for six days of shows.

Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News) Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News) Scott Avett sings into his mic during The Avett Brothers’ performance at opening night concert of the Savannah Music Festival Thursday at the Johnny Mercer Theater. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

CITY TALK: Bay Street redesign removes some parking spaces, widens sidewalks

During the current economic expansion, we are getting glimpses of Savannah’s future. Hotel projects are already transforming the west end of River Street, and we’re likely to see more investment in the area north of Bay Street and west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

CITY TALK: Don’t expect progress on calming Whitaker, Drayton

As many of you know from reading previous coverage in this newspaper, Kevin Klinkenberg of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority gave a presentation about traffic calming on Drayton and Whitaker streets at the most recent workshop session of Savannah City Council.

CITY TALK: Proposals could better balance downtown residents, tourists

The need for greater residential density in Savannah’s downtown area has been a recurring theme of this column for 17 years, so I’m thrilled that the current city administration seems prepared to take substantive action on this long-standing problem.

CITY TALK: Dueling petitions over alcohol sales in Thomas Square

I’ve written here repeatedly about the zoning crisis in West Savannah. For years, neighborhood activists have tried in vain to get the area rezoned, but efforts stalled, largely because of inaction by Savannah city officials. The lack of substantive action on zoning – the term we use for what uses are allowed in what places — led directly to the mess surrounding The Stage on Bay.