Savannah moving forward with purchase of old Coastal Empire Fairgrounds

Savannah moving forward with purchase of old Coastal Empire Fairground

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There's no property really like it in the heart of Savannah, the 67-acre plot of land that used to play host to the Coastal Empire Fair.

And when that land was up for sale, it became an attractive potential buy for the City. But the negotiations for the purchase recently reached a critical point.

The last Savannah City Council meeting set the wheels into motion to buy the property. But a closer look at the land during the acquisition process revealed some challenges.

The City of Savannah entered into a contract with the seller of the property to buy the land for just over $3 million, subject to due diligence.

But an examination of the plot revealed 16 of the 67 acres are not usable for residential housing, which is one of the planned uses for the land overall. So the seller reduced the price to $2.9 million, which some city officials still viewed as too high.

Thursday in council, Alderwoman Estella Shabazz made the argument, with the support of several community leaders from neighborhoods surrounding the property, that the City of Savannah, not a private entity should control the land.

But Mayor Eddie DeLoach, with the support of council members Carol Bell, Julian Miller, Bill Durrence and Brian Foster, voted to make a counter of $2 million.

Council agreed to review the matter this morning in a special meeting, and behind closed doors came to an agreement, then voted publicly 8-1 that the City of Savannah should just move forward with the purchase at the current listing price.

Alderman John Hall had this to say about the decision, "We came together as a council. We came together for the greater good of the citizens of Savannah, that's what we did. And we're unified and we're willing to step to mending and healing all of these little rough spots. It came together today beautifully."

"The side that did not prevail, we're not going to back up off of our assertion that this was good for the community, good for our city. And I think that some of the other council members are realizing, in the spirit of trying to unify not only this council but this city, that it was time to come together and acquiesce," said Alderman Van Johnson.

Johnson called this a major hurdle in the process.

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