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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: One final trip to Johnny Harris

I had not eaten at Johnny Harris Restaurant for a couple of years, so I dropped by for a late lunch last Wednesday. Barring some unforeseen development, the iconic Victory Drive restaurant will close for good on May 28. 

CITY TALK: Arena study answers questions, raises some new ones

In Sunday’s City Talk, I shared a few preliminary thoughts on the feasibility study for the city of Savannah’s proposed new arena.

Since my deadline for that column, I’ve had time to read and begin to digest the voluminous report prepared by Barrett Sports Group LLC, Gensler, JE Dunn Construction, and Thomas and Hutton.

CITY TALK: Jane Jacobs and the search for connectivity

As I wrote in more detail about Savannah’s mixed-use urban fabric, readers routinely began bringing up Jacobs’s ideas, especially those articulated in her influential 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

Primarily through observation, Jacobs identified four key elements of urban vibrancy.

CITY TALK: Bay Street plan may make things worse

Maybe we should just change the name of Bay Street to Bay Road and call it a day. Intentionally or not, the city of Savannah has taken steps over the years to reduce Bay Street’s friendliness to pedestrians and to small businesses.

Trucks travel on East Bay Street earlier this month. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)

CITY TALK: Have we recovered from the housing bust?

Remember the housing boom and subsequent bust? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course you remember it. But are you still living with the effects of the bursting of the housing bubble?

CITY TALK: Plant Riverside redevelopment still an exciting prospect

Last week’s debate over the city of Savannah’s bond issuance to fund the construction of a parking garage for the massive Plant Riverside hotel development raised many difficult questions about the limits of public/private collaboration.

If all goes according to plan, local taxpayers will come out ahead. Developer Richard Kessler and his team will pay off the bond debt, and we’ll end up with approximately 240 parking spaces for public use in the new garage.

CITY TALK: Labor force rising, but poverty a real concern

For the most part, when I write about employment data here at City Talk, I’m detailing the estimates for payroll employment from the ongoing survey of establishments. 
 
However, the unemployment rate and other characteristics of the labor force are determined by the household survey, not the establishment survey. The household estimates can be noisy from month to month, and sometimes they are out of step with the payroll estimates. Eventually, though, the two surveys align.

CITY TALK: What will Husk's arrival mean for Savannah?

“Brock isn’t reinventing Southern food or attempting to create some citified version of it,” wrote Bon Appetit. “He’s trying to re-create the food his grandma knew – albeit with the skill and resources of a modern chef."

CITY TALK: New apartments bring essential downtown density

Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Planning Commission approved a 70-unit apartment complex for 1020 E. Broad St. That huge empty lot at the northeast corner of East Broad Street and Park Avenue had been vacant for many years. At one point, city officials were even negotiating to buy the property for a new Central Precinct, but that deal fell through. Plans are also moving ahead for The Bowery, a 59-unit apartment complex at 515 Montgomery St., near the corner of Huntingdon Street.
Rendering of The Bowery apartments, which are currently under construction at 515 Montgomery St. (Special photo rendering by Beacham Bunce and Manley Architects)

CITY TALK: New craft beer market latest step in Bull Street resurgence

Last week, the Savannah City Council gave the thumbs up to Ale Yeah, a craft beer store that’s headed for 1207 Bull St., between Duffy and Henry streets. We’ll keep an eye out for an opening date.

That space, which is in the middle of a building that runs on the west side of Bull Street from Duffy Street to Duffy Lane, was formerly occupied by a variety shop.

CITY TALK: Finding the right balance in a vacation rental ordinance

A friend of mine from high school periodically drives through Georgia with her family, and they love stopping in Savannah for two or three nights.

A few years ago, my friend and her family found the perfect place to stay. It was a short-term vacation rental in a small apartment above a single-car garage near Victory Drive.

CITY TALK: Recent events highlight Savannah's public spaces

On Sunday afternoon, Forsyth Park was filled with activity, as it often is at this time of year.

At the south end of the park, people were playing organized games of basketball, tennis, Ultimate (often called “ultimate Frisbee”), volleyball and even kickball.

CITY TALK: Broughton Street: What's changed? What hasn't?

I took a long, slow walk down Broughton Street one evening last week. 
 
It’s easy in this job to get caught up in the recent changes to streetscapes and lose sight of the broader long-term trends on a corridor like Broughton. So I periodically try to look at the street with fresh eyes.

CITY TALK: Great early press for 2016 music festival

The Savannah Music Festival is heading into its final days, and it looks as if the 17-day event is having another impressive year.

The crowds have been generally strong, and the shows I’ve attended have featured stellar production values.

CITY TALK: The Vault now open at Bull and 38th

The Vault Kitchen & Market had a soft opening last Wednesday. Or, as it turned out, not so soft.
 
The Vault, at the corner of Bull and 38th streets in a former Bank of America building, is the latest effort from the Savannah restaurant group Ele and the Chef. 
Photo by Visit Savannah.

CITY TALK: Temporary 'better block' planned for Starland

The First Friday Art March on April 1 is notable for a number of reasons.

First off, it’s the 50th first Friday event sponsored by Art Rise Savannah. When the first Art March was held more than four years ago, few would have expected the event would take hold as it has.

CITY TALK: Savannah's employment boom continues

Last week, this column looked at the first two months of crime data for 2016. Those numbers don’t show any improvement over the same period a year ago, but many Savannahians seem willing to trust, at least for now, that new crime-fighting strategies will bear fruit.

We also have two months of employment data for 2016. Those numbers paint a pretty clear picture.

CITY TALK: Touring musicians praise city's beauty, hospitality

At her Savannah Stopover performance in the North Garden at The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum earlier this month, Canadian singer-songwriter Lucette rhapsodized about being in Savannah for the first time. “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my life,” she said between numbers.

I saw several dozen acts at Stopover this year and have attended the three-day festival for six years, so I can say confidently that her feelings have been widely shared by other participating musicians.

CITY TALK: Are new crime-fighting initiatives working?

I don’t think anyone expects that new city policies or the strategic efforts coordinated by Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Jack Lumpkin will have immediate effects. Still, it’s worth checking in occasionally through 2016 on current crime trends to see if we’re making any headway.

For this column, I’m looking at the SCMPD’s crime statistics for the week ending Feb. 27. That gives us about two months worth of data on Part 1 crimes, a broad category that includes violent crimes and property crimes.