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What’s next for a vacant city-owned shopping center on Savannah’s eastside?

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 11:30 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Healthy Savannah says 1 in 5 adults in Chatham County do not have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

A city council member is looking to expand access to fresh food now that a piece of city property is up for grabs. The property in question is on East 37th Street and Waters Avenue. The last storefront there, “It’s Amazing” beauty supply store is closing.

Savannah Alderman Detric Leggett says the store at one point had a 20 year lease. He says once the city bought the property a few years ago, the city gave the owner more time on that lease.

With the beauty supply store gone, the shopping center will be completely empty. Alderman Leggett sees its departure as an opportunity.

“Before that it was a grocery store,” said Alderman Leggett. “It fed the community and that’s what we’re looking to have back in this community. A grocery that’s going to feed not only fresh produce but it’s going to help the neighborhood grow and a liven this corridor.”

Alderman Leggett says the city bought the property 12 years ago for about $1.4 million. He says residents would like to see another grocery store back on the property.

“To have fresh produce you have to go a mile and a half in either direction to Kroger or anything but we’re looking along with the city manager and some staff to a liven this area by bringing in some food opportunities,” said Alderman Leggett.

Healthy Savannah Executive Director Paula Kreissler agrees about the lack of access to fresh food in the area.

“We’re really not in a dessert,” said Kreissler. “We’re actually in an area that just lacks food. So to that end, that’s what Healthy Savannah is using is food apartheid area and we are right in the middle of one.”

The USDA describes a food desert as a low-income area that does not have easy access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

“I think this would be a perfect location because we at Healthy Savannah want the healthy choice to be the easy choice for everyone in our community regardless of who they are,” said Kreissler.

There’s no clear timeline on when the city will move to take action to put something else on the property, but Alderman Leggett believes it’s overdue

“We want to be able to have something that’s going to be on this side of town that people can definitely go to and show that there is progress happening in the second district,” said Alderman Leggett.

Alderman Leggett also says adding a grocery store there could help attract new business in the area, which the city is working to revitalize.

The Waters Avenue Revitalization Project began six years ago in 2015.

According to the city, the multi-million dollar plan adds brick sidewalks, lighting, and more to areas from Victory Drive to Wheaton Street.

Alderman Leggett says that plan is getting ready to move into its third phase and believes a grocery store will be a good addition and attract other businesses.

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