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Savannah city council set to vote Thursday on a number of large projects

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 7:21 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah city council will vote on a number of large projects for the city’s future on Thursday, including the fairgrounds, affordable housing and youth programs.

The future of the fairgrounds property could be decided after years of planning, discussions and community input. But several other proposals will also be put to a vote.

Council will be asked to adopt the city’s 2022 one year action plan, which is a plan to spend the $4 million in federal funds that was given to the city to improve housing and assist low income residents with housing needs.

Another item up for approval is the acceptance of a $1 million grant for a youth program that would include occupational skills training, work experience and alternative secondary school services from April of 2021 through June of 2023 for low-income youth between the ages of 16 and 24.

Council will also vote to designate Juneteenth as a city paid holiday for the first time starting in 2022 and continuing every year on June 19.

“I hope and trust that Juneteenth, like all the other holidays, becomes more of an observance of what the day is all about, so, it may be a day the city employees don’t have to work but I would hope it is spent not only on reflection but meaningful commemoration,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

Council will also be looking for approval on spending $72,000 on security equipment for the new Enmarket Arena.

But the fairgrounds project will be front and center at Thursday’s meeting as they will vote on a proposal to transform the property. The land has gone mostly unused since the city purchased it in 2016, but if it is approved today at council, work could begin soon on the transformation.

City Manager Jay Melder went through the final three proposals and found only one met all of the requirements, and that is the plan that will be presented to council Thursday.

The P3 Venture Group has laid out a plan that includes single multi-family and senior housing, youth recreation, production studios, a career center, park space, and an area of neighborhood storefronts with a combination of retail, offices and nonprofits.

District 5 Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz says she has been working with this property since 2013 and is hoping for a good outcome from Thursday’s vote.

“We have the highest percentage of poverty, higher than the entire city of Savannah. This project, I am keeping my foot on the gas pedal to make sure that we move the needle by decreasing poverty with economic development priority for our citizens in the 5th District along with those in the city of Savannah,” said Dr. Estella Shabazz, District 5.

Dr. Shabazz says at this point, she is leaving the vote in the hands of her fellow councilors and the mayor.

If approved, it will go to the city manager and city attorney for the final phase. They will need to add a timeline and engage with the communities surrounding the fairgrounds for feedback.

These votes will happen Thursday, Oct. 28 during the virtual city council meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. To view the complete meeting agenda, click here.

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