PROPERTY MATTERS: A high time for historic renovation, redevelopment

The old Woolworth’s terrazzo entrance, now leading to a Subway, remains at the intersection of Abercorn and Broughton.

Downtown’s historic Woolworth’s building could be rehabbed, although the future use of the property is in question. Meanwhile, the city’s plan to clear the air about medicinal marijuana regulations took a step forward recently, as did a proposed impact fee being developed to help pay for the public costs of development projects. The loss of a late-70s-era office building south of DeRenne probably won’t be missed by many; however, the plan to construct a hotel in its place will likely continue the discourse over how many guest rooms this city needs and the future need for office space in this post-pandemic era.

Stay engaged Savannah.   —Eric

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: A high time for historic renovation, redevelopment
Eric Curl
The ground level of 129-131 East Broughton now features Planet Fun and a Subway, while the top two stories remain vacant.

Historic Woolworths building being rehabbed

Planet Fun is on the ground level, a Savannah entrepreneurial success story. There’s also a Subway franchise next door. But the top two stories of the building at 129-131 East Broughton St. have remained vacant since the 50’s-era building’s original tenant, a Woolworths, shut down.

Now the new owner is planning to rehab the building’s two top floors, as approved by the Historic District Board of Review last week.

Located at the southwest intersection of Broughton and Abercorn, the historic building will also get a covered rooftop patio, under the plan submitted by the project’s architect, Savannah-based Greenline Architecture.

While a narrative submitted for the project stated the rehab was for residential use, Keith Howington, with Greenline Architecture, stated during a June 8 review board meeting that the upper stories would serve as a small hotel, according to the meeting minutes. Sales records also show that a portion of the property was purchased by an LLC that shares an address with a Boston-based vacation rental company, Stay Heirloom, which rents out multiple properties in Savannah and throughout the country.

Howington said on Sept. 15 he could not speak about the owner’s plans for the building but would provide them with my contact information. The owners did not respond, as of Sept. 16, when this article was submitted for publication.

Savannah City Council gives initial OK to impact fee project plan

Last week the Savannah City Council unanimously approved transferring a capital improvements plan to the Coastal Georgia Regional Commission for review, as part of an impact fee program development process. If approved by the commission, the plan will again have to be considered by the city council for official adoption.

The report, known as a Capital Improvements Element (CIE), includes parks, recreation, roads and public safety projects. Among the projects included in a 2023-2027 work program are a Southside community center, skate park, New Hampstead and Hutchinson Island fire stations, Southside and Eastside police stations and the widening of Stiles Avenue.

The city is developing the potential impact fee program as a way to defray costs of expanding public facilities needed to serve new growth.

The proposed transmittal is the latest step in the development of the impact fee program. The CIE comes after a consultant presented an impact fee methodology report to the city council that outlined the maximum fee amounts that could be charged developers under the plan. The amount of the fees the city will charge will be determined by the city council as the impact fee ordinance is developed.

Proposed ordinance clears way for medical marijuana dispensaries in Savannah

An ordinance designed to regulate the sale and dispensing of medical marijuana will head to the Savannah City Council for consideration, after recently being recommended for approval by the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission.

The proposed ordinance comes after Georgia lawmakers passed legislation in 2021 that established licensing procedures for cannabis producers and allows medical marijuana treatment and the dispensing of products with low amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

According the the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, the effects of cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis and other diseases can qualify residents for a required registration card to possess 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil. The state commission has not issued retail dispensing licenses yet as it develops rules for such operations.

To prepare for the local impact of the legislation and pending dispensaries, the city council adopted a 180-day stay in March on the granting of any licenses or permits to sell or dispense medical marijuana. The stay was expected to provide time for the city to develop public safety plans and zoning criteria to ensure the dispensaries are permitted within the appropriate districts and do not compromise residents’ health and safety.

The ordinance defines dispensaries and establishes B-C (Community Business) as the zoning district where the businesses would be allowed. The dispensaries would be prohibited from operating within 2,000 feet of certain establishments, including day-care centers, schools and colleges, substance recovery facilities, places of worship, restaurants, bars and liquor stores. In addition, the dispensaries would have to be located in a stand-alone building and would not be allowed to feature flashing lights or electronic message boards.

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: A high time for historic renovation, redevelopment
Eric Curl
The one story building that will be demolished The office building at 6203 Abercorn St. will be demolished to make way for the hotel.

Another Savannah office building poised to become the site of a new hotel

A Richmond Hill-based developer is planning to construct a 5-story hotel on Savannah’s Southside at 6203 Abercorn St., where an office building is currently located, according to permitting documents submitted for the project.

A recently submitted development plan includes the demolition of one of two office buildings on the site to construct a 108-room hotel, as described in a letter submitted along with the project plan from Savannah-based Maupin Engineering.

Another structure, the Fred Williams office building, would remain on the three-parcel site, while the other two parcels would be combined for the hotel. The hotel would share 25 parking spaces with the office building, while 83 spaces would be dedicated to the hotel.

The office building being demolished dates back to 1978, according to the property record.

The project comes after another plan was recently submitted to convert office space for hotel use. The historic Manger building overlooking downtown Savannah’s Johnson Square is also being converted from an office building back into a hotel, which it originally operated as, according to a plan approved by the Savannah City Council last month.

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: A high time for historic renovation, redevelopment
Eric Curl
The Fred Williams building adjacent to the proposed hotel will remain.