Cruise ship study taps Savannah River Landing as best site - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Cruise ship study taps Savannah River Landing as best terminal site

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Four years of studies and meetings, close to half a million dollars spent, and the latest study kept under wraps for lock and key for a week.

The secrets of the latest cruise ship study were revealed Tuesday afternoon at Savannah City Hall, including the location selected as the best site for a possible terminal.

The Savannah River Landing came out on top.

It was named first place, according to the Cruise Ship Staging Area Study, but with a lot of work to do. The study showed the river landing was preferred over other the two sites studied, which were located on the other side of the Savannah River on Hutchinson Island.

BEA Architects performed the $200,000 staging study and determined the Savannah River Landing was best suited as a cruise ship terminal location because of it's less congested portion of the harbor and it is outside the federal channel. It would require less maintenance dredging, which lowers long term costs and has undergone the most permitting already.

On the other hand, it also requires a lot of work, including drainage and power lines and a complete sewer and drainage system, which would be necessary for development anyway. It also needs a structure or building.

The firm hired to do the study says the Savannah River Landing is still the best choice.

"Based on the criteria we studied, land, size of the land, marine, infrastructure, electrical services, utility, birthing capability, traffic, all those things came into play," Bruno Ramos, BEA Architects, told WTOC.

We now know where Savannah's cruise ship terminal would best be located, but at what cost?

The study unveiled Tuesday goes next to the cruise ship task force Wednesday, then Thursday, city council will let the public sound off on whether or not they think more money should be spent on pursuing the proposal of Savannah getting into the cruise ship business.

BEA Architects also revealed to city leaders through the study some demographic details on how Savannah, the a cruise ship industry of 100,000 passengers may impact the city, as well as how Savannah compares and would be able to compete with neighboring cities with cruise ship terminals.

They told the city council and staff, and interested members of the public, Savannah compares very favorably, with higher numbers in all categories, with competing cities,  beating Jacksonville, Fla., Mobile, Ala. and Charleston, S.C. in demographics of one day drivers who would cruise out of Savannah.

Even though the experts say Savannah is all set to sail, the critics, like Be Smart Savannah,  aren't buying the idea.

"Nothing changed today. I think it just re-enforced our position," Pam Miller, Be Smart Savannah, told WTOC. 

"We have to recommend what is best for the city. it only takes one bad recommendation to ruin our reputation," Ramos said. "If we didn't believe in it we would step back."

The cruise ship task force meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Savannah City Council will have their public hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday and could vote on whether or not to move ahead with the $90,000 second phase of the study at that time.

Public comments will be allowed during the city council meeting on Thursday. If you would like to sign up to make comments, visit http://www.savannahga.gov/

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