SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah City Council is a step closer to determining the fate of the current Civic Center downtown.
To give them some options, council contracted the expertise of a panel from the Urban Land Institute out of Atlanta.
The recommendations are pretty clear - that while the building and all that it holds has been a valuable resource and site for important milestones, the city should look to re-establish the square and street patterns of the Oglethorpe Plan.
“As an entrance to the Historic District, this gateway is failing,” said Luciana Spracher, Director, Municipal Archives, Savannah.
The Urban Land Institute’s recommendation reinforced past suggestions from city staff, that there are perhaps better uses for this property, especially once the new arena is complete. Savannah’s Planning and Urban Design Director, Bridget Lidy, read the panels recommendation for the Civic Center site aloud in Thursday morning’s council workshop.
“It is the ULI’s panel’s strong recommendation that the entire Civic Center Complex be removed and the preparations for the restoration of the Oglethorpe Plan in this area be pursued," Lidy said.
“I think it’s going to be sad for some locals who like the parking that’s there, but I’m happy for it to go, I really am," said Lori Collingsworth, CEO/President, Savannah Coffee Roasters.
Collingsworth says her business, which sits just across the street, caters more to locals than crowds from the Civic Center, so she’d like to see more of a residential development on the site.
“I think it would be great if we can get the square back and maybe some condos or town houses going in there. I think that would be fabulous, I really do,” she said.
Council approved a motion to adopt the Urban Land Institutes recommendations, which also includes getting lots of public feedback - something they’ve already started doing.
“It’s a valuable site, and really, when you think of it, as you come off I-16, this is the first part you see. So, I think if they could be very judicious about the design and have something that is attractive," Collingsworth said.
Acting City Manager, Pat Monahan, reminded council that even if there is some push-back on the Civic Center site recommendations, they already approved re-directing a major funding source for the Civic Center to the new arena - the auto rental tax revenue - adding point blank that the money is not there to keep this building operating.