SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah’s Canal District could look completely different in the next five years.
The city’s new arena is the largest approved project by City Council. It’ll cost $165 million. It’ll also bring more traffic and drainage problems for the West Savannah area.
The Canal Master Plan is a plethora of ideas centered around fixing drainage and improving transportation on the west side of Savannah as the city preps for a new arena. Some of the plans the engineers and designers talked about didn’t impress the crowd, but residents were more disappointed with the lack of engagement.
“I don’t like the format. I think it’s their way of controlling the narrative," said Curtis Cooper, Cloverdale Neighborhood Association President.
If SPLOST passes on the November ticket, the city will get $45 million to address drainage issues, but it will only address one spot that backs up the rest of the canal. Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis doesn’t think that’s enough.
“How will it connect to those basins? If you are not going to answer that, then you are wasting our time,” Ellis said.
Residents listened to leaders talk about the plan to expand Gwinnett Street and Stiles Avenue ahead of the new arena on one side of town. However, on the other side of town, City Council was making decisions vital to the Canal Master Plan.
“Their engineer is talking with our engineer. We are working through it still, but we’ve gotten to the point where I’ve got to ask - I have to ask for authority to condemn this property if we can’t resolve it before the 24th,” said Bates Lovett, Attorney, City of Savannah.
According to council members, Sheppard’s Gas and Food Mart has been at the corner of Gwinnett and Stiles for almost 30 years. In order for the city to expand Gwinnett Street to four lanes, the city needs part of the gas station’s property. Council agreed to use eminent domain to take control of the property for now, so that they can bid out the project in two weeks. They’ll negotiate with the owner to decide how much the city will pay.
Residents are ready to see some physical work getting done.
“Nothing has started. There was a ribbon cutting, but no shovels, and everyone looks at that, and there is nothing to be excited about," Cooper said.
The contracts for the Gwinnett Expansion Project will go out at the next council meeting, on Oct. 24.
“We are really looking at preserving the neighborhoods that are currently there, and any type of development that occurs that would be adjacent to those neighborhoods, making sure that there is a transition zone so those neighborhoods are not impacted by a 12-story parking garage adjacent to a one-story home," said Director of Urban Planning, Bridget Lidy, City of Savannah.