The City of Savannah should extend the Streetcar to Midtown and the Southside, while building dynamic, beautiful and commodious parks along the way. The City and its residents would reap huge financial, health, enjoyment, and environmental benefits.
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Savannah needs to expand its vision way beyond the Historic Districts. Sure, we love them. However, not everyone can live there. And, the Districts cannot hold all of our shopping, living, commercial, and entertainment needs– especially as Savannah continues to grow. And it will continue to grow.
Midtown Savannah already has some of our best grocery stores, upscale shops, luxury furniture and cars, and an increasing number of nice restaurants. This area is surrounded with great neighborhoods like Ardsley Park, Kensington Park, Habersham Woods, and Fairway Oaks. But, the commercial areas need vast improvements in amenities, accessibility, and aesthetics to ensure that businesses will be successful and the area will continue to grow.
Conversely, Downtown Savannah has so much that most of us to the south would love to access, although traffic, parking, wanting drinks during dinner, and having to walk a long way– just seems to prevent visits very often. Let’s fix that.
Extend the Savannah Streetcar from the new Transit Station down Montgomery Street which has much less traffic and there are an abundance of sites for redevelopment. The MLK district, West Victorian and Metropolitan areas would be affected very positively. At Victory is the newly underway One West Victory mixed-use development which would greatly benefit from the streetcar access, and reduce the number of cars on nearby roads, which local residents fear.
The Streetcar would improve the residential area west of Bull Street in Ardsley Park and a quaint new area of neighborhood restaurants and services would grow on the west side of Bull Street, perhaps like wonderful Virginia-Highlands in Atlanta.
Next, the streetcar would turn east near DeRenne until Bull/White Bluff turning south.
When the Streetcar hits DeRenne Avenue, one should know right away that they are in the very epicenter of the great City of Savannah. This is the best location for upscale mixed use development in Savannah. The streetcar and the current plans for White Bluff/DeRenne realignment will help alleviate traffic. This is where Savannah should shine with a mix of traditional Savannah styled buildings and modern 21st century style. It needs to be a walking environment with mid-rise scaled buildings to give the area the impact of a city center with residential, offices, retail and restaurants.
The streetcar would run through a linear park along Hunter Army Airfield (land which they would have to re appropriate to the city of Savannah). Connecting HAAF to downtown would help businesses in the historic district. It would also provide a safe area for the streetcar, with minimal road traffic interference. The park would provide pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists safe and pleasant passage. An exercise course would be a good amenity for Hunter Linear Park.
On the east side of Abercorn, the great neighborhoods of Kensington Park and Habersham Woods have not a single park to call their own. I propose that the pristine land behind Twelve Oaks Shopping Center be saved from future commercial development by creating a romantic English style park, a gem in the necklace of new parks. Huge old trees could be preserved, a waterlily pond with waterfall could be created out of the runoff canals present. This quiet park would provide safe access to the Temple and Abercorn via new trails. It could be designed to provide better water retention and improved environmental filtration. Habersham Woods Park could be a new postcard view of Savannah.
Connect the complementary shopping districts of Broughton, Midtown and the Southside.
An exciting large linear park which would connect Oglethorpe Mall, Market Walk, Savannah Centre, and the end of Habersham Road at Stephenson. This area is an underutilized canal parcel just waiting for the City to reclaim. Perhaps called Market Central Park, it would allow bicycles, pedestrian, joggers, and hotel guests nearby to exercise or access existing shopping and restaurant areas surrounding the new park. It would also encourage a walkable city, with sidewalk cafes, people watching and an alternative to driving everywhere. The Streetcar would follow the linear park from Stephenson at Habersham to the newly redeveloping Market Walk, along the rear of Savannah Centre.
Oglethorpe Mall could redesign and extend their front sidewalk into a pedestrian promenade with green spaces, sidewalk cafes, shade trees and street furnishings. This would connect on one end to Market Central Park and the other end Abercorn Walk which is mostly already pedestrian ready. The Mall’s garage would provide an economically viable streetcar transit station connecting to buses throughout Savannah.
It is important that the streetcar does not “just end up at a mall”, but to a destination which Savannians and tourists alike would want to visit. So, the streetcar would continue down commercially important Hodgson Memorial and Montgomery Cross Road to a quality new urbanist redevelopment surrounding a brand new Lake Oakhurst.
The Vernon River Creek, which is now just a runoff canal, could become a public park with man made water park/ play amenities over better environmental filtration and flood retention. The outdated and unsafe apartment complexes between Abercorn and White Bluff would be razed and a beautiful circular lake with park surrounding would be constructed. This would be the aesthetic gateway to Savannah. Good architecture and human scale would be prerequisites for the mixed use retail, homes, offices and entertainment. This would greatly benefit the older neighborhoods of Oakhurst, Paradise Park, and Leeds Gate/Wilshire, preventing them from decline.
Sure, this is a big list which would be expensive, but the increasing tax revenues for the City of Savannah would certainly offset the cost. A vast portion of Savannah would be transformed. We would be helping the environment by using our cars less. The new generation would be encouraged to move here– they love transit oriented cities, therefore adding growth. The new parks and mixed-income redevelopment would give new jobs, help the downtrodden to be happier and discourage crime. This could be a win-win for all Savannians.
Some may find these ideas far fetched, but look no further than the exponential growth in Pooler and Effingham county for proof that growth is happening. Lets build growth here in the City of Savannah to increase tax revenues and build a great lifestyle like no other city.
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