Residents voice concerns surrounding future of Canal District

Residents voice concerns surrounding future Canal District

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s a huge undertaking to revitalize areas of Savannah. Some West Savannah residents are not excited about what will happen to their neighborhoods after the city builds the new massive arena.

Thursday night, City of Savannah leaders hosted a community workshop to ease tension and open up conversations. Six-year West Savannah resident, Chelsea Jackson-Greene, said she hopes the Atlanta consultants can spend the needed time to address critical issues.

“You can’t just put a big spaceship on the west side and hope the rest just comes together,” Jackson-Greene said.

That spaceship is the almost $160 million Savannah arena, and it’s at the center of what West Savannah will look like for future decades. As the city plans to break ground on the SPLOST-funded project on Sept. 14, the City of Savannah is asking stakeholders to share every concern, big or small.

“The more things we identify through this process, the more that will really help us to ensure that we’re developing this place that will address those issues as well as offer opportunities for the community to come and enjoy,” said Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design.

There are big concerns moving forward on the City of Savannah’s Canal District Master Plan. Residents like Patricia Henderson say they must address existing drainage problems.

“There are a lot of drainage issues, especially if we have a heavy downpour. Our streets are flooded. That means our flooding is usually backed up. In order to control that, better piping and drainage needs to be done before anything else is built,” Henderson said.

Another well-known challenge for this project will be preserving historic neighborhoods in and around the Canal District. Community members like Kevin Veitinger are scared of what they call ‘inevitable gentrification.’ He hopes the city will present solutions.

“Promoting African-American businesses, maybe grant opportunities when some of this development is happening, and making sure that the folks in this community have a stake in this development,” Veitinger said.

The next meeting for the Canal District Master Plan will be held Sept. 14, when the city breaks ground on the arena.

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