City launches new Savannah Shines initiative

City launches new Savannah Shines initiative
Published: Aug. 11, 2017 at 1:55 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2017 at 5:50 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah launched a new program Friday, they say will help improve the quality of life for their residents.

The program called Savannah Shines is a multifaceted, coordinated approach to neighborhood revitalization.

City leaders say Savannah Shines will focus on four things: Private and public property, public safety and community engagement

Over the next year and a half, city staff will be working with people living in the Edgemere-Sackville neighborhood teaching them about things like home improvements, home ownership, zoning and property standards, as well as how to improve lighting and prune tree canopies to improve public safety.

"Property maintenance, code enforcement inspections are going to have to be a lot. They're going to be stepped up and be a lot more, I wouldn't say aggressive but more diligent in this effort. And hopefully use the learning experience of this effort and code enforcement tweaks we might make to transfer into all neighborhoods we are working in, that property maintenance is out working in," said Martin Fretty, the project manager of Savannah Shines.

The neighborhood association president for Edgemere-Sackville says being selected for this pilot program is like hitting the lottery.

This is a multi-million dollar investment in Savannah's neighborhoods, a mix of public and private funding, that will give blocks like this one a much needed boost by improving aesthetics, public safety and the overall feel.

"When I heard that our neighborhood got picked for the Savannah Shines project, we were jumping for joy," said Kathy Kaiser, an Edgemere-Sackville resident.

For the next year and a half, Savannah Shines will pump resources into the Edgemere-Sackville neighborhood, with the goal of enhancing the well-being and quality of life for the people who live there.

"We'll be working with landlords and homeowners who have roofing problems or housing problems, things that we can do to improve the outside of the houses through a series of financial incentives," Fretty said.

Fretty says that will be a match-based incentive and be possible with millions in public and private funds.

"It's extremely important that we get participation by private property owners and private investment to match what we're doing," he said.

For Edgemere-Sackville's neighborhood association president, the city selecting them for the pilot program is an acknowledgement of countless hours of hard work and neighborhood clean-up's.

"When people acknowledge, and see the work that you're doing, the seeds that you plant actually start to grow, it's amazing. It's just really, really amazing," said Edgemere-Sackville Neighborhood Association President Cynthia Hopson.

Edgemere-Sackville was actually second on the list for this pilot program. Alderman John Hall, who represents this district, says Cuyler-Brownsville was the top pick based on the Sunshine Index. But Hall says since they are already receiving initiative attention, Edgemere-Sackville moved up.

The city has yet to acquire a chronically blighted or abandoned property under a law that recently went into effect, commonly referred to as the "eminent domain" bill.

Savannah's attorney will be establishing that process under the amended law, which will take anywhere from nine to 12 months to take a property using eminent domain.

City officials say it will only be used as a last resort in battling blight in Savannah.

The City of Savannah maintains a "100 Worst Properties" list. According to the city, the list targets Savannah's most neglected properties.

To view the list, please click here.

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