Savannah city leaders host town hall meeting on fairgrounds project

The fairgrounds redevelopment project has been in the works since 2014.
The fairgrounds redevelopment project has been in the works since 2014.(Flynn Snyder)
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 11:27 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannahians got a chance to meet with the city Wednesday about the long awaited plan to redevelop the Coastal Empire Fairgrounds.

The project has been in the works for the city’s fifth district since 2014.

Plans for the site off Meding Street call for the land to be redeveloped in phases starting with the construction of affordable housing units for seniors.

“This is one of the most important projects we are working on right now,” said Savannah City Manager Jay Melder.

He says the 66-acre site is the largest undeveloped piece of land in the city’s central core.

Wednesday’s meeting was one of more than a dozen the city has hosted about plans for the site.

“You want to make sure that what gets developed there is supporting the surrounding neighborhoods...but also is something that is going to be available for generations to come,” said Melder.

The meeting was also the first time residents were able to ask leaders questions since city council approved a $2 million dollar purchase and sale agreement for the site in April.

“There were questions in the community about the developer and some legal aspects of the development team,” said District Five Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz.

City Manager Melder says those questions stemmed from a former member of developer P3 Joint Venture Group who was indicted in Arizona regarding procurement law while they were a university employee.

“That individual is not part of the P3 Joint Venture Group. We haven’t found anything that would make us uncomfortable with moving forward with this development because of those allegations,” said Melder.

That purchase and sale agreement vote also caused frustration among some members of the 5th District Coalition who say they were blindsided by the vote’s timeline.

At the meeting, Dr. Shabazz and other project leaders pledged transparency.

“I would not have moved anywhere in taking back to city council anything that the public and this community did not trust,” said Shabazz.

Residents were eager to ask questions as land for the project’s first phase is expected to be sold to the developer this year.

“I get the concept of the senior housing but I think there’s a little bit more thought that needs to go into how it’s going to all play out,” said District Five resident Angel Brayboy.

Next up for the project, city council will have to vote on a development agreement for the site.

That’s expected to be submitted later this summer.