SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - What will be the next big area of development in Savannah? City leaders hope it's Waters Avenue.
Thursday, the city took business owners and investors on a tour of the corridor - showing them the opportunities and incentives to bringing business to the area. The hope is to get it back to the vibrant area it once was, back in the 50s and 60s.
After years, even decades, of neglect, the city has spent a long time trying to lure businesses back. The boarded-up buildings and dilapidated homes make Waters Avenue a ripe place for development.
"There seems to be a critical moment when something is ready to happen. We've been trying for a long time with Waters, but that time seems to be now," said District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence.
Thursday's tour came in the middle of a major revitalization project for Waters Avenue. The city has finished a third of it. The project improves sidewalks and adds landscaping to the road. The goal of the third phase of the project is to encourage this kind of investment.
There was some discussion in the budget process of cutting out a half-million-dollar contribution to the Waters project from the general fund. However, city council members decided to keep that in next year's budget to supplement the SPLOST contribution for the project.
"This has been in the past, a very vibrant corridor," Durrence said. "I think it can be again."
To help do so, the city hired a new director for a business opportunity. In just six months, Manny Dominguez says he's seeing changes but not enough.
"Some of the challenges are related to the way that parking restrictions work in the area," Dominguez said. "We've also had issues related to folks not ready to be the first ones in."
The tour also serves as a chance to educate the business owners and investors on the incentives and opportunities along Waters Ave. The city offers tax rebates and low-interest loans. Tom Oxnard recently bought a boarded-up building and plans to turn it into a coffee shop. He credited the city's incentives for making that an easy decision.
"There's not a lot of places where you can something to eat, get a coffee, go relax. I'm hoping that we can work with people in this neighborhood," Oxnard said. "We're not going to force people out."
After years of neglect, city leaders have their eyes on now with attitudes like that.