More thoughts on Savannah’s use of public space

In my City Talk column today, I mention a significant number of major developments in recent months involving plans, investment, and construction on significant tracts of land that are currently underutilized or even blighted.

It’s a pretty obvious conclusion that so much private and public investment bodes well for Savannah’s economy over the short- and medium-term.

I realized after the fact that I forgot about a couple of key developments. There are Family Dollar stores being built at the intersection of President and Pennsylvania and on MLK near Huntingdon.

I’m sure some of my readers aren’t too excited about the Family Dollars, but they represent jobs, economic activity, and property taxes. And there’s a real niche for one in proximity to downtown neighborhoods — I could see a wide range of Savannahians, including lots of SCAD students,popping into the MLK store for a large variety of discounted items.

There’s also a significant new retail store likely coming to one of Broughton Street’s empty spaces.

Work also appears to have started on the CAT transfer center adjacent to the intercity bus station on Oglethorpe. While it makes sense to have the intra- and inner- city stations next to each other, I really don’t like that site for the long-proposed and much-debated CAT station. My reasons:

1) The transfer center needs to be a close walk to the downtown areas where many bus riders work. The site is too far for a comfortable walk throughout much of the year for those in the downtown business district or most visited tourist areas.

2) As a consequence, many riders who now get off on Broughton will end up stopping on Oglethorpe and transferring to another bus to Broughton, thus costing them considerable time.

3) The western edge of downtown and that portion of Oglethorpe Avenue are among the most congested areas anywhere north of Derenne. The additional bus traffic could end up being horrible for traffic patterns (and make it even more vital that the city reopen east-west connecting streets that have been closed over the years).

And there’s some other potential land use news that I didn’t know about when I wrote that column.

From Adam Van Brimmer’s SMN article Plans call for Trustees’ Garden amphitheater:

An open-air entertainment venue is planned as an addition to the Charles H. Morris Center at the site of Savannah founder General James Oglethorpe’s experimental farm. The facility would include at least 1,200 fixed seats plus a lawn viewing area.

Dear Mr. Morris, if you are reading this, we love this idea. You have had many stated plans for the property, but it’s been a couple of years since there has been any forward movement. If you have the resources to put this on the fast track, please do. It would be a great thing for the city.

Obviously, such an amphitheater could be used by the Savannah Music Festival, which Morris supports heavily already. But it could also be used throughout the year by a wide variety of acts. The stage in Forsyth Park is not only incredibly flawed as a performance space, but also virtually impossible to use for ticketed events.

I mention another new performance venue in my column today — the Ships of the Sea’s new North Garden will be officially unveiled at the end of June.