Best of Savannah 2008: City Life 

Best Green Company & Best Green Building

Melaver Inc.

Abercorn Common

At first glance, Melaver Inc. doesn’t fit the profile of a stereotypical environmental business. The winner of Savannah’s Best Green/Sustainable Company began operation in 1940 as a small, family owned grocery store, and over the decades morphed into M&M Supermarkets, one of the largest grocery store chains in Georgia. In the 1980’s the Melavers exited the grocery business to become a leading regional real estate development company.

Headquartered in downtown Savannah, Melaver Inc. has offices in Atlanta and Birmingham, and boasts real estate holdings of over 1.5 million square feet across the Southeast. They own, manage or are developing office buildings, retail centers, loft condominium projects, a mixed use neighborhood, and a luxury hotel.

But for at least forty years, the Melaver family has incorporated green principles into its company’s projects, according to Randy Peacock, Head of Construction for the company.

“I’ve overheard CEO Martin Melaver say that when Melaver, Inc. started clearing the site for the Wilmington Island Shopping Center, his mother and company board member Betty Melaver was there bright and early to stand between the bulldozers and the beautiful oak trees that filled the site. She made sure that the plans accommodated the existing trees. Those trees remain standing today.”

In recent years Melaver Inc.’s unofficial save-the-Earth philosophy has evolved into formal corporate policy. The vision of this third-generation, family-owned corporation is “to become a vertically-integrated, truly sustainable real estate company. Our definition of sustainability focuses on the triple-bottom line of economic performance, environmental footprint, and social engagement with the community,” according to the company website.

“We analyze and track our company’s carbon footprint, and make reductions as part of our goal to reduce our impact on the environment,” says Peacock.

The company “has pledged to only develop and build products that meet the US Green Building Council’s LEED standards,” he says.

LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System™, a national program developed by the USGBC that rates buildings in one of four certification levels according to sustainability criteria assessing the environmental impacts of each building’s design, construction, and operation.

Eight of Melaver’s buildings are LEED certified, and the company pledges that all future developments will be built to LEED specifications. Most of the company’s staff have passed a national LEED accreditation exam, including all of their management team.

Peacock was the project manager for the $30 million reconstruction of Melaver’s Abercorn Common, the first LEED certified retail center in the U.S., and the winner of the Best Green Building award.

The mid-20th century-era complex was originally anchored by an M & M Supermarket, (where Peacock first went to work for the Melaver family as a grocery bagboy in 1984.) The center’s main building now houses a mega-bookstore, two home furnishings stores, a smoothie shop, two restaurants and other retailers. Both the main building and an out-parcel strip center, called Shops 600, received LEED Silver certification for adherence to environmental standards. Abercorn Common is also home to the first LEED-certified McDonald’s restaurant in the nation.

Sustainable features at Abercorn Common include porous concrete, a half-million gallon cistern for capturing rainwater, white roofs to reflect heat from the sun, and extensive tree coverage in the parking lot. Preferred parking spaces are reserved for hybrid vehicles.

“Our cistern in the back of the shopping center harvests approximately 5.5 million gallons of rain water each year, which we use for irrigation,” says Peacock.

Last week, first-time Abercorn Common shopper Christi Nasser was unaware that the center was a sustainable property. She was particularly impressed with the appearance of the center. “It’s really beautiful. Most shopping centers just have concrete junk everywhere. This one is nice because it has a lot of green.”

The Melaver Inc. philosophy is summed up in the name of their award winning retail center. “It’s called Abercorn Common because a common is a public gathering place,” says CFO Denis Blackburne, “and because we believe that one day this type of development will be the common way of doing business.” - RWG

Runner-up, Green Company: Structured Green

Runner-up, Green Building: Frogmore Lofts

Best New Building

Jepson Center

In a town with not so many new buildings worth noting, the Moshe Safdie-designed masterpiece really stands out.

Runner-up: Mansion on Forsyth (technically a new business in an old building)

Best Old Building

City Hall

Burnished with a new coat of gold leaf, you picked the century-old building on Bay Street over any number of other historic locales.

Runner-up: Massie Heritage Center

Best Local Tour Company

Old Savannah Tours

It’s hard to stand out in a town with so many tourism businesses, but Old Savannah continues to do so in high style.

Runner-up: Oglethorpe Tours

Best Public School

Savannah Arts Academy

As exemplified by our standout intern this year, Kristi Oakes, the quality of student at Savannah Arts Academy remains extremely high — not just academically but in terms of character as well.

Runner-up: Jenkins

Best Private School

Savannah Country Day

Still cranking out the cream of the crop, as they have since 1955.

Runner-up: St. Vincent’s Academy

Best Headmaster/Principal

Sister Helen Marie Buttimer

Running St. Vincent’s Academy downtown since 1994 with a blend of compassion and discipline, Sister Helen Marie is one of the area’s most highly regarded educators.

Runner-up: Jane Tyler

Best Bachelorette

Clary Bosbyshell

This year’s most eligible bachelorette, Clary Bosbyshell, is a relative newcomer to Savannah. The 23-year-old Atlanta native arrived in town about a year ago after earning an Art History degree from the University of Georgia.

“I have a love of fashion and fashion merchandising,” says Bosbyshell. “I came here to work at Bleu Belle for Heather. I thought it would be a great way to learn the business.”

In her free time, Bosbyshell can be found at the gym, at the Tenth Street beach on Tybee, or wining and dining at Local Eleven 10, Bacchus Wine Bar, or A Vida. She’s a member of the Telfair’s William Jay Society—“The Telfair’s Black and White Bash, that was fun.”

Her take on Savannah’s dating scene? “I moved from Buckhead where everyone is single, single, single,” she says. “Down here I thought, ‘where are all the single people?’ I think it’s hard.”

“Clary knows so many people in Savannah from UGA, and a bunch of her mom’s sorority sisters live here, but she didn’t know a lot of the younger crowd,” says friend and co-worker Mitchell Hall. “Her customers are all women, so she’s met hundreds and hundreds of girls in Savannah but not many men.”

Bosbyshell is cautiously optimistic about her new friendship with a man she met last month, although so far she says it’s “not serious.” - RWG

Runner-up: Krista Ray

Best Bachelor

John Bressler

Savannah’s most eligible bachelor for 2008 spends about 90 hours a week in a downtown drinking establishment. The 44-year-old entrepreneur opened John’s and Friends Bar four months ago, in the City Market space once occupied by Savannah Blues, and since opening, he’s been there nearly every waking hour except Sundays.

“I’ve been so busy with the bar that I’m not doing what I like to do for fun,” says Bressler.

Despite the demanding hours, this downtown resident finds time for a daily run or workout at the Downtown Athletic Club, an occasional day at the beach, late night meals at Sushi Zen, and “Sunday Fun Day” with co-workers and friends, sharing cocktails at The Warehouse on River Street or at Mercury Lounge.

Bressler moved to the area in the 1970’s and attended college at Armstrong. After serving in the Marine Corps he moved back to Savannah in 1990 to pursue a sales career. Bressler got into the bar business five years ago.

Newly single this year, this father of two is “pretty shocked” to be voted Savannah’s best catch. He’s hoping to meet someone who is “mature with the way they handle life, and someone extremely secure with themselves and not a jealous type, because obviously in the bar business we see a lot of interesting things.”

“He has a ton of energy and he’s super friendly, I don’t think there’s anybody he doesn’t talk to,” says Pattie Quattlebaum, a bartender at John’s and Friends. - RWG

Runner-up: Justin Johnson

Best Place to Propose Marriage

Tybee Island

Just don’t bring that champagne bottle onto the beach -- no glass allowed.

Runner-up: Forsyth Park

Best Street Character


For decades, countless locals and visitors alike have encountered the gregarious, stoop-shouldered man known as “Piccolo”. He can often be found in the daytime standing near the courthouse on Montgomery Street, and at night in the City Market area and throughout the so-called entertainment zone.

Soft-spoken and at times difficult to understand, his weathered face and shuffling gait are as much a part of the Historic District’s landscape as City Hall. Most who have met Piccolo are likely not aware of the great contributions this humble man (born John Saxton Pearce) made to this city, state and country during the formative years of the American Civil Rights Movement.

“Piccolo was what we like to call a dedicated soldier in that cause,” says Richard Shinhoster, 1st Vice President of the Savannah Chapter of the NAACP.

“He wasn’t involved in leadership, but was known for carrying out whatever responsibility he was given. He would show up where others would not. We consider him one of the unsung heroes of the movement.” - JR

Runner-up: “Stop the Lie” guy (Charles Moody)

Best Priest, Preacher or Rabbi

Father Patrick O’Brien

With his distinctive Irish brogue and sensitive yet no-nonsense manner, Father O’Brien is not only pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, he is a police chaplain as well. Runner-up: John Connell, Calvary Baptist

Best Church

Savannah Christian Church

So-called “mega-churches” seem to get a lot of bad press, but here’s the thing: They’re usually “mega” for a good reason. Pastor Cam Huxford shepherds his flock on the southside with grace and aplomb, offering a full calendar that’s enlivened by frequent dramatic productions, usually seasonal, such as The Journey and the upcoming Miracle Worker.

Runner-up: Calvary Baptist

Best Greenspace


An awesome greenspace before that word was even invented.

Runner-up: Daffin Park

Best Neighborhood and Most Underrated Neighborhood

Ardsley Park

As downtown has become too pricey for all but the very affluent, once old-money Ardsley is becoming popular with a diverse group of folks. OK, so there’s still gobs of old money there, but still.

Runner-up, Best Neighborhood: Downtown

Runner-up, Most Underrated: Baldwin Park

Most Overrated Neighborhood

The Landings

That said, Skidaway Island is truly one of our most underrated scenic spots.

Runner-up: Ardsley Park

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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