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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: Proposed merger will likely benefit Savannah economy

In Sunday’s City Talk, I mentioned the possibility of surprises for the Savannah area economy in 2017. We got one of those surprises after that column was written but before it was published. As you probably know by now, the Board of Regents is poised to vote this week on the proposed merger of Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University.

CITY TALK: Let's be optimistic about 2017

Savannah seems to have entered the new year with a curious mix of apprehension and optimism. Count me among the optimists, although it probably wouldn’t take much to send me to the dark side.

CITY TALK: Hotel fight shows need for long-term strategy

Developers of the planned West Elm hotel on Drayton Street recently agreed to limit the proposed building to four stories. That height is allowed under the current map, and the hotel use is also allowed under current zoning. The hotel developers had wanted to take advantage of a provision in the zoning code that allows some buildings to have an extra story if they have ground floor retail uses, but a five-story structure required a different interpretation of the zoning district.

CITY TALK: Proposed new 'fee' fraught with problems

At last week’s meeting of Savannah City Council, the mayor and aldermen delayed the first reading of an ordinance that would have allowed for a 25-cent fee to be added to every sales tax-eligible transaction over $10 in a portion of downtown.

CITY TALK: 2016 brought good changes, too

I’ve learned a lot of things about Savannah and Savannahians in the 16 years that I’ve been writing this column. For one, the vast majority of Savannah residents care deeply about their city and their neighborhoods.

CITY TALK: City leaders weigh budget options

In last Tuesday’s City Talk, I argued that the city support should continue for a variety of reasons – as a statement of community values, as a way to encourage innovation and creativity, as a tool for promoting economic vitality.
Due to revenue shortfalls, city staff recently recommended reducing the size of the 2017 grants to these outside organizations.

CITY TALK: New Montgomery Street apartment brings added density to Historic District

As I was taking an evening stroll last week, I noticed for the first time that many of the lights are on at The Bowery Apartments at 515 Montgomery St. The Bowery isn’t occupied yet, but it will be soon. Some readers will disagree, but I think the complex has an appropriate scale, style and density for the neighborhood.

CITY TALK: Proposed budget cuts raise larger questions

We’ve had many interesting public controversies in 2016, and we’re finishing the year with another one. City of Savannah officials tried to fill some last-minute budget holes by cutting funding for various nonprofit groups that work broadly in areas of arts, culture and social services.

CITY TALK: City kicks off initiative to redesign streetscapes for Broughton, Bay, River streets

City officials contracted earlier this year with the design firm EDSA to upgrade the streetscapes of Broughton, Bay and River streets.

CITY TALK: What will replace two of Savannah's 'bathroom tile' buildings?

As Jan Skutch reported last week in this newspaper, the U.S. Congress has approved nearly $100 million for final repairs to the grand Tomochichi Federal Building and Courthouse on Wright Square and for construction of a new annex on the east side of Telfair Square. Two of the three infamous office buildings that are part of the Juliette Gordon Low Federal Office Complex will be biting the dust.

CITY TALK: Broughton Street gets good start on holiday season

On a recent Friday evening, a huge crowd gathered at the intersection of Broughton and Bull streets for the lighting of the huge Christmas tree that has been installed as part of the inaugural Holidays on Broughton.

People gather on Broughton Street on a recent Friday evening for the Christmas tree lighting event. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

CITY TALK: Muse Arts Warehouse closing in Feb. 2017

An apartment building is planned for 703 Louisville Road, just west of Boundary Street. The site, which lies in the midst of Savannah College of Art &Design residence halls, seems perfect for apartment geared toward college students.

CITY TALK: Atlantic is welcome addition to food scene

Atlantic opened recently at the northeast corner of Victory Drive and Drayton Street. The new restaurant is another exciting entry in Savannah’s increasingly ambitious food scene.

CITY TALK: Local jobs report shows longer term gain

According to the latest estimates from the Georgia Department of Labor, the Savannah area labor market headed into the holiday season in healthy shape. The Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) had 179,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in October. That was 4,600 more jobs than we had in October 2015. That’s an increase of 2.6 percent in the last 12 months, which is probably about twice the rate of population growth.

CITY TALK: Small Business Saturday encourages 'shopping small'

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and I hope that all the readers of this column have reasons to be thankful. It’s been a rough year for many of us, and the Thanksgiving holiday might provide the chance to put 2016 in perspective.

Bridget Lidy with the City of Savannah instructs 50 student volunteers from SCAD SERVE on how to decorate the lamp posts along Broughton Street. (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News)

CITY TALK: Vote in Savannah metro area reveals deepening divide

Many residents of Bryan and Effingham counties work in Chatham County, and many do a great deal of shopping in Chatham County, too. But Effingham and Bryan counties are nevertheless much smaller than Chatham County, and last week’s election results pointed to a deepening political divide in the metro area. Let’s look at some numbers.

CITY TALK: A broader look at boom south of Forsyth Park

The Starland neighborhood has attracted considerable attention in recent years – from commercial investors, from prospective home buyers, from the local and even national press. I’ve written about the area numerous times in recent years, but ongoing developments dictate another broad look at the rapid changes.

CITY TALK: Marathon concert makes optimal use of Forsyth stage

Something amazing happened at the Savannah Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon’s concert in Forsyth Park headlined by Old Crow Medicine Show.
Fans got close to the stage.
A family listens to the Old Crow Medicine Show perform in Forsyth towards the end of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Saturday afternoon. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

CITY TALK: Zoning overhaul still waiting in the wings

The Savannah City Council recently decided not to pursue a moratorium on new hotels. That was probably the right move given the legal complications that such a restrictive ordinance might have spawned.

CITY TALK: It's good to learn from Savannah's newcomers

After wolfing down my blintzes at Sunday’s Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival in Forsyth Park, I decided to sit down for a spell before tackling my pastrami sandwich. Despite the bustle down the park’s main path, I found a quiet bench a short distance away.  But, as so often happens in Savannah, I got pleasantly sidetracked by three short conversations.