1220 Barnard St.
1220 Barnard St.

PROPERTY MATTERS: New restaurant at SCAD diner, housing on MLK city lot & potential buyers for Kiah house

Updated July 11, 2023 at 12:39 p.m.

Gunn Meyerhoff Shay Architects.
Rendering of proposed apartment building at 916 MLK.

There is a lot of development going on in Savannah. These are some of the more recent projects that caught my attention while perusing building permits and meeting agendas.

Stay engaged Savannah.

New restaurant planned for vacant SCAD diner

The folks behind Savannah’s Common Thread and FARM in Bluffton are proposing to open a new restaurant at the vacant diner owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design at 1220 Barnard St., according to recently submitted applications to install a sign and obtain a special use permit to serve alcohol at the establishment.

The restaurant will be a restaurant version of Strange Bird, according to the proposed sign, the sister food truck to FARM, as described in this 2019 Connect Savannah article.

The alcohol petition was to be considered by the Metropolitan Planning Commission on Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed to July 25 due to a lack of a quorum.  The restaurant will serve smoked meats, tacos, burritos, and veggie sides as well as beer and wine, according to the MPC staff report. 

Constructed in the 1930s, the building is currently considered a non-contributing structure in the historic Victorian Historic District, although it was recently included in a survey of Victorian Historic District properties being considered for historic status.  SCAD purchased the property for $75,000 in 1986, according to property records. 

FARM’s owners declined to comment on the plan via a spokesperson on Friday.

Housing plan submitted for city site at 916 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Gunn Meyerhoff Shay Architects submitted a petition to build a 3-story, 16-unit apartment building on city owned property at 916 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the latest plan for the site following the demolition in 2014 of the 1960s-era building that once housed the city’s first-black owned pharmacy. 

The project will provide high quality 2-bedroom apartments affordable to small families and/or couples who have been displaced, or who are at risk of being displaced, due to the high cost of rental housing in the neighborhood and Savannah, according to the project description

“This is not transitional housing—although planners hope that by having a stable, affordable, place to live with supportive services that some residents will use this as a springboard to larger market rate apartments and/or home purchases,” the architect’s petition states.

The height and mass of the building is scheduled to be considered by the Historic Preservation Commission at the July 26 meeting.

Following the closure of the pharmacy in 2007, the city bought the property and an adjacent vacant lot for about $510,000 in 2009 with the intention of rehabilitating the building, which featured a unique honey-comb façade. The council initially wanted to renovate the structure and use it for the department of economic development and commercial space, but the plan was abandoned after engineering analysis determined the building was structurally unsound and could not be saved. At the time of the demolition, the city planned to build a replica of the demolished structure, but that plan was also abandoned.

Five potential buyers qualify as HSF seeks to sell, restore Kiah house

The Historic Savannah Foundation recently pre-qualified five potential candidates as the nonprofit seeks to find a “preservation-minded” buyer for the Kiah house who will rehabilitate the dilapidated structure and recognize the significance of Savannah’s first African-American founded museum.

The nonprofit is not identifying the potential buyers, at their request, but they are all locally based, according to Ryan Jarles, HSF’s director of preservation and historic Properties.

“We’re super happy about that,” Jarles said.

The potential buyers were pre-qualified to make sure they had the experience and financial qualifications necessary to actually move forward with the restoration project, which is expected to cost more than $500,000. The contenders will next have to submit their proposals for the property by July 29, which will then be evaluated by HSF. Once the buyer is selected, the closing should occur within 30 days.

“The (request for proposals) is requiring they have quite a bit of information ready,” Jarles said. “We know they won’t have any problem with the closing.”

Built in 1915, the house at 505 W. 36th St. in historic Cuyler-Brownville was transformed into a community museum in the late 1950s by the late artist and educator Virginia Jackson Kiah and her husband, Calvin Kiah, a former Dean of Education at Savannah State College. HSF purchased the property in 2022 after the structure had deteriorated as a result of a more than two-decade-old Chatham County Probate Case concerning the estate of Virginia Kiah, who died in 2001.

Published July 11, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.


Eric Curl

Connect Savannah Freelance Correspondent I Eric Curl is probably reading building permits, sales records and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at Savannahagenda.com.
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