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In Savannah there is no vacuum. Our downtown is full and we are trying to accommodate still unsatiated demands from residents and tourists. downtown residents simply wish that development would stop on the day that they moved into their renovated historic home. I had further evidence of this when I recently participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Experience Institute as a part of their crafting of our forthcoming Tourism Management Plan. The theme of our discussion was “the realities of living in a mixed-use area.” Before our discussion began, we were asked to consider a table with downtown attributes arranged in SWOT format (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). At the top of the “weaknesses” section there appeared the following bullet item: Density decreases social and economic appeal I was shocked to see this, but it must have been a sentiment presented by more than one person participating in the process. However, my shock was assuaged, as everyone at the table, both neighborhood representatives and downtown businesspeople, agreed it should be banished from the list of weaknesses. At least at this roundtable, all the participants agreed that density actually acts as a catalyst to get us all of the conveniences that we want. But that doesn’t mean that increasing density needs to be heaped upon the same geography over and over. Each time I have participated in the Tourism Management Plan, I have tried to push one simple strategy: dispersal, dispersal, dispersal. Savannahians will bitch about the size of hotels and the number of cars, but few express that they want less tourists (though they might want less of certain kinds of tourists – I’ve heard them referred to as “fanny-pack tourists”). So it’s about how we accommodate the tourists. Let’s accommodate them at a scale that fits each district. Tourists don’t have to all fit downtown in an increasing number of big-box hotels that enclose the Landmark
Week Week at a at a Glance Glance
District like the crenellated wall of a castle. The Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) lists 11 National Register historic districts in Savannah. These represent a big piece of toast, so let’s smear the butter of tourism demands around some, rather than leaving it as a big lump on the Landmark District. To beat the horse just a little more, this can be in the form of home-sharing and STVRs, but it can also be in small-scale boutique hotels. That’s just the lodging piece – these neighborhoods can also rapidly grow their stock and quality of locallyowned stores and eateries with the help of the disposable dollars that tourists are here to relieve themselves of. This is exactly what is happening in my own Thomas Square/Starland area. I hope to see it continue, there and elsewhere. For projects of a scale that do not fit with our historic districts, both tourist and resident-focused, we have the “expansion areas” of Savannah River Landing on the east, and the Canal District on the west. Looking forward to both our overall strategic plan that will come out of the Savannah Forward forums, and the Tourism Management Plan (which should compliment one another) I will leave you with this quote that Kevin Klinkenberg, Director of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority (SDRA), delivered to the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) not long ago: “With so many of our planning issues, there’s complete alliance with needs of visitors and residents - safe streets, cleanliness, beauty, entertainment, unique and local shops and services, and reliable transportation options. I think it’s healthy to focus on areas of agreement. These are fellow human beings in our city, opening their wallets and dumping cash on the sidewalks. Instead of painting all of that with a broad brush, let’s focus on specific issues that don’t align with residents and work on those. Be careful of the conseGet the lowdown on quences of throwing the baby out with the
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