City, state and federal officials walk through proposed Project - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City, state and federal officials walk through proposed Project DeRenne


Leaders at the federal level are wrapping up meetings with the city of Savannah and the state of Georgia over a huge project that's been years in the making: Project DeRenne.

The project is a detour or design that will alleviate congestion on the overloaded corridor.

 On Wednesday the city closed down Hampstead Avenue so they, along with Georgia Dept. of Transportation, Federal Transportation representatives and Poplar Place neighborhood residents could do a walk through on the proposed widening of Hampstead Avenue.

More than 50 residents of Poplar Place neighborhood, with maps in hand, got a feel of how their neighborhood is going to change.

 Mayor Edna Jackson made good on a promise to this neighborhood that their voices would be heard from people at the top.

"I stood up in front of you, and I said I was going to do what? Go to Washington with the council and bring somebody here," said Jackson.

A black tarp was laid out, representing the four lanes that Hampstead Avenue will become, and a strip of green Astroturf represents a grassy median between the lanes. It is called the boulevard concept.

"It's going to be the betterment of the entire community, even though it's going to be a grand sacrifice for their community," said District 5 Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz. "This has been going on for some decades now, but today is the first day that we're actually on the ground. They can see, these layouts are here, so the people can understand what is going on and what is about to take place."

 That means the quite neighborhood of Poplar Place will go from dealing with 9,000 cars on Hampstead Avenue to roughly 30,000 a day.

 Most residents of Poplar Place agree that getting people off DeRenne to get to the Southside is good for growth, and if that means giving up their street, so be it.

 But what they disagree on is whether to leave or stay.

 Dr. Patricia Harris, President of the Poplar Place Neighborhood Association is tired.  She has relentlessly fought against this project for years.

 "Every neighborhood in this city should be compassionate to us and understand our plight here," she said.

Even though Harris has been a big voice for this neighborhood, she's moving. 

Eleanor Parker, who lives down the street, has no intensions of leaving. 

"It's progress; it has to happen," said Parker. "Savannah can't stay the same sleepy place."

The widening means tens of thousands more cars will drive right past her window, but it also means new sidewalks, which is just what she wants and the neighborhood needs.

"We have people who have to go to the grocery store in their little push carts or walk, and it's dangerous," she said.

Whether it's walking or driving, Hampstead Avenue and this neighborhood are going to change. Hopefully Wednesday's exercise helped the people out here see what's ahead, or what they're leaving behind. 

The City of Savannah told the residents that the ball would start rolling on Project DeRenne in 2016 heading into 2017, but after Wednesday's exercise, that may change. 

Savannah City Council members and the city manager is also discussing compensation for the neighborhood since this project is encroaching on their properties.

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