PROPERTY MATTERS: Sears apt. plan moving forward, River Street warehouse rehab planned, SCAD film studio update and former railroad terminal condemned

Madison Capital Group is planning to demolish the closed Sears on the west end of the Oglethorpe Mall and build apartments at the site. Eric Curl/October 2021
Madison Capital Group is planning to demolish the closed Sears on the west end of the Oglethorpe Mall and build apartments at the site. Eric Curl/October 2021

Southside Sears developer says apartments on the way

Madison Capital Group is moving forward with plans to demolish the vacant Sears on the Oglethorpe Mall's west end and construct a 240-unit apartment complex on the site. The company submitted a building permit application for the project this month, more than a year after the Savannah City Council approved the company's petition to rezone the property from commercial to multi-family residential in February 2022.

The company is now looking to start construction in the next 30 to 60 days, Executive Managing Director Ross Rabun said Friday.

"We're excited to get it rolling," Rabun said.

The proposed complex consists of five 48-unit buildings, two of which are to be built where the Sears store currently stands vacant after closing in 2018. Plans for the four commercial outparcels that surround the planned apartments are still being determined, Rabun said.

MCG purchased the property for $9 million in 2021 and submitted the rezoning petition for the project that November. 

The mall is happy to have the added foot traffic and the residents will have the convenience of being able to shop right outside their doors, Rabun said.

"It works for everyone," he said.

West River Street warehouse to be rehabbed for apts, retail

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: Sears apt. plan moving forward, River Street warehouse rehab planned, SCAD film studio update and former railroad terminal condemned
Rendering by Savannah-based Lynch Associates Architects as submitted with rehab and alteration plans for 3 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The transformation of West River Street continues to take shape, following the development of the Plant Riverside hotel and entertainment complex on the formerly industrial site.

Bob Turner, the owner of 3 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, recently submitted plans to rehabilitate the vacant building located across the street from Richard Kessler’s mega-development, and next to a recently renovated former city fire station that now house’s Poe’s Tavern. The proposed renovations and alterations are part of a plan to convert the structure for retail use on the first floor and high-end luxury apartments on the upper floor with a rooftop garden, according to real estate broker Dicky Mopper.

Constructed in 1939 for the South Atlantic Paper Company and then later occupied by a wholesale laundry and dairy supply company, the proposed work includes the replacement of non-historic windows and entrances, new awnings, a new glass overhead door at one of the loading dock openings, and rehabilitation work. 

The rehab and alteration plans by Savannah-based Lynch Associates Architects are scheduled to be considered by the Historic District Board of Review on May 10.

If everything goes smoothly, construction could begin in four or five months, Mopper said.

SCAD preparing to build ‘fire station’, ‘convenience store’ and ‘subway’ as part of film studio complex

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: Sears apt. plan moving forward, River Street warehouse rehab planned, SCAD film studio update and former railroad terminal condemned
A gateway is being constructed at the entrance to the SCAD movie studio complex. Eric Curl/April 14, 2023

Beyond the gateway currently under construction, the Savannah College of Art and Design is continuing to develop a world of make-believe off Louisville Road.

SCAD recently submitted plans to construct multiple backlot buildings as part of the film studio complex the university is developing along the corridor west of Savannah’s downtown historic district. The plans include the construction of buildings resembling a subway station, New York-style brownstones, a convenience store and gas station, rowhouses and a fire station for students to use for filming projects.

In addition to the backlot structures, the multimillion-dollar project includes renovation of four existing buildings within the property to support proposed studio facilities. In 2021, SCAD opened a mixed reality LED volume stage, which uses camera tracking and real-time rendering to create an immersive virtual environment, visible live on set and shot directly on camera, according to SCAD’s website.

Once in the way of development plans, former Savannah railroad terminal building condemned

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: Sears apt. plan moving forward, River Street warehouse rehab planned, SCAD film studio update and former railroad terminal condemned
The former railroad terminal at 703 Louisville Road was condemned in March by the city. Eric Curl/April 14, 2023

After plans to demolish the building for an apartment complex failed to move forward,  an early 20th-century railroad terminal appears to be falling apart on its own.

The city recently condemned the former railroad freight terminal after finding it to be unfit for human habitation, improperly secured, covered in graffiti and surrounded by litter, according to public records obtained through an open-records request.

The March 8 condemnation notice on the building addressed to the owner, a Charleston-based company called 703 Louisville Road LLC, included an order that the building be vacated, although the brick structure, covered in overgrown vegetation and graffiti, does not appear to have been used for years.

Constructed in 1929, the building is located just outside Savannah’s downtown historic district and recently faced demolition when different developers proposed to replace it with apartment buildings in 2016 and 2019. A zoning change was approved in 2019 by the Savannah City Council, as part of a developer’s plan to construct a 255-unit, 7-story multifamily building at the site.

Following opposition from preservationists, the developer agreed to preserve and relocate the east end section of the building to be used as a leasing office. Touted as a “gateway” to the city’s planned Canal District, those development plans have yet to move forward.

Savannah Agenda reached out last week to the building’s owner and developer behind the 2019 project and an update will be provided if a response is received.

The building’s western half previously housed the Muse Arts Warehouse for seven years before closing in February 2017.