City leaders propose shifting Broughton St. funds

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - City leaders want to to take funding for Broughton Street and focus it on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Montgomery Street.

Downtown business owners say city leaders have pitted Broughton Street businesses against Martin Luther King Blvd. development, dipping into the Broughton funding. While some shop owners like the idea, not everyone is on board.

"I see us going down down down," said Willie Johnson, owner of Willie's Hair Salon on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

He and his wife, Carolyn Johnson, had high hopes for Martin Luther King Boulevard when they opened Willie's Hair Salon 25 years ago.

"We need to go up, it's not doing too well on this side. When you get this side of Liberty street, it's not that great," said Johnson. "Now take a look at Broughton Street, I see that's where all the money has been put. That's what I see."

"It looks beautiful, it really does," said Carolyn Johnson.

The City of Savannah wants to cut into Broughton Street's development and renewal funding and spread it to the MLK, Jr. Blvd. and Montgomery Street corridors.

It's a good idea if they keep their word," said Willie Johnson. "I have been hearing that for ten years now."

"The city as a whole needs work, but to say Broughton Street is done is ridiculous, it's very naive to think that," said Dean Caldarelli, DC2 Designs.

Dean Calderelli has owned DC2 designs on Broughton Street for 5 years at two locations. "It's a struggle right now," he told WTOC.

Twenty-two businesses have closed on Broughton this past year. Calderelli says promised improvements, lighting, sidewalks and trees haven't happened.

"Any improvement that has been done has been by private owners like myself," Calderelli noted. "We have two buildings on Broughton we have renovated. We have abdoned buildings on either side of us with boarded windows."

The Downtown Business Association president Michael Lepper says they will fight the city on this and believes Broughton may look nice to some people, but there are deeper issues than just aesthetics and funding needs to remain in place.

"Downtown Savannah, Bull and Broughton, Abercorn and Broughton, those addresses are the nucleus of the tourism and shopping done," said Lepper.

"To say Broughton Street is done and vibrant, I invite anyone to come spend a few days to see it is not true," said Calderelli.

"If they need their funding, if its theirs, they have a right to keep it, but if it is for the city, they have a right to share," Willie Johnson told WTOC.

Some suspect politics are at the center, even going as far to say city leaders do not support downtown business.

Business owners say there are a lot of promises broken and major projects put on hold. The city calls it a mute issue and in the early stages, since funding is not available right now as it is, citing the economy.

©2009 WTOC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.