Last Coastal Empire Fair at the current fairgrounds

Last Coastal Empire Fair at the current fairgrounds

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Coastal Empire Fair opened Thursday.

This will be the last fair at the fairgrounds near 62nd and Meding streets because the city has purchased the 67-acre land to build affordable housing.

Folks are sad that changes are coming to the area because the fair has been coming to that community for more than 60 years. Thanks to the Savannah Exchange Club, who puts it on every year.

But officials say it's time to move on from that location.

The property had been for sale for a while, and the City of Savannah recently purchased the land for more than $3 million. The plan is to transform this area into a mixed income community that's environmentally sustainable, much like Savannah Gardens on Pennsylvania Avenue.

One of the goals of this redevelopment project is to cut down on crime since Savannah Gardens overall crime is down more than 60 percent.

Property crimes are down 68 percent. Violent crimes are down 60 percent. Part one crimes, which includes crimes like robberies, assaults even murder, are down 66 percent.

But families around the area are disappointed that the fairgrounds will be no more, but they are fed up with the crime.

"There's too many shootings, like every other day. It just doesn't make any sense. Like it's just not safe to go anywhere. You don't know what might happen," said Jamall Sills, Savannah.

The crime issue even affected the fair, when eight people were shot during the fair in 2012.

"Yeah, that was crazy. It shouldn't be like that though, this is for families," said Sills.

Officials say the fair turnout has remained stagnant over the last couple of years and it's not growing like they hoped it would.

"You know, neighborhoods change in Savannah. If you've lived here long enough you realize that," said Coastal Empire Fair President Bill Gardner.

Gardner explained they've been looking to leave this site for many years now and when the city offered to buy the property for more than $3 million, they gladly accepted.

"That gives us an opportunity to enter into a contract with them where it's going to be a benefit to the community because they are planning to put affordable housing on the property," said Gardner.

The 67 acres will be transformed into apartments, houses, even some retail space.

But Gardner says its a win-win situation. It's good for the area and they plan to continue the fair in the Savannah area.

"We will have a fair next year. The board has already decided to do that," said Gardner. "We're not going to be exempt from crime where ever we move, but that was a factor. But the main factor was we were ready to expand what we've got."

They are currently looking at places in and around the city. They wouldn't tell us where. But we've been reassured there will be a fair next year.

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