MPC completes historic site review for Yamacraw Village

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 11:15 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A historic site review of one of Savannah’s oldest public housing complexes is complete. What does that mean for future development?

WTOC got the report from Laray Benton, who filed an appeal last year, after we didn’t get the documents in time from our own public records request.

According to the Metropolitan Planning Commission, what was supposed to be a 30-day review turned into almost 6 months.

The MPC said in the review‚ the complexity of the site’s history made the process take longer. they made their own recommendations and explained how demolition could impact historic properties in and around the area.

“Our fight was if you’re gonna displace 315 residents, have a plan....where are you going to rehouse them? The Housing Authority (HAS) doesn’t have any available units. There’s a waiting list for Section 8,” said Former Resident LaRay Benton.

The historic site review required by the federal government does address some of Benton’s concerns.

“How many units will be retained in the community if it’s redeveloped and will they be affordable?”

The MPC specifically states the Housing Authority needs to “ensure realistic housing relocation for all displaced residents that does not put them at the bottom of a housing waiting list or lead to homelessness. Ensure that true affordable and safe housing options are created to avoid gentrification and systemic inequality.”

It cited Yamacraw Village as being eligible for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and First Bryan Baptist Church and other properties surrounding it that could be impacted though they are not included in demolition plans.

“The MPC actually did understand that there was a threat to the historical property such as the church here and the buildings and the land in general that needed to be protected.”

WTOC’s Investigates Team has reviewed federal housing inspection reports and found Yamacraw Village is among the worst-ranked public housing complexes in Georgia.

“Has the community downgraded over the years? Yes. Because they have allowed it to be done.”

Benton said he is advocating for the residents because there is a way this should be done.

“It’s the right thing to do to make sure you properly document and retain the history of what’s going on. There’s many who may have written Yamacraw Village off, but we as a community have not.”

As far as we know, the HAS still hasn’t submitted the application for demolition yet.

The MPC would not comment on their review process.

First Bryan Baptist Church is planning to have the community out this weekend to talk about site review and what’s next in the process.

You can come to First Bryan Baptist Church from 10am to 1pm.

The City of Savannah will also hold open houses on January 30 from 11am to 1pm and from 4pm to 6pm. They will be in the auditorium of the Coastal Georgia Center at 305 Fahm St.

If you can’t attend the open house, you can fill out the survey and return it to City of Savannah Housing and Neighborhood Services Department by 5:00pm on February 15th.