Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
Savannah Aldermen Detric Leggett (left) and Nick Palumbo view the new streetlights at the intersection of Victory Drive and Atlantic Avenue.
A freshly installed set of classic lampposts lining a promenade that traverses ever-busy Victory Drive is highlighting a need for safer street crossings and improved right-of-way access across Savannah.
Just before Christmas, Midtown Savannah residents received a gift that shines brighter than any string of bulbs: a set of historically styled new globe lampposts illuminating the intersection of Victory and Atlantic Avenue, the historic juncture of the Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent and Baldwin Park neighborhoods built in 1910.
Funded with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues, the new lamps were installed after years of effort by local neighborhood associations, the Historic Savannah Foundation, community leaders, and activists like Bike Walk Savannah members and local lighting advocate Ardis Wood.
Savannah City Council Aldermen Detric Leggett of District 2 and Nick Palumbo of District 4 spoke during the lampposts’ Dec. 23 lighting ceremony about how the new streetlights make the surrounding neighborhoods safer, especially for students of the nearby Savannah Arts Academy.
“This has really been the gateway of two communities,” Leggett said of the Atlantic Ave. crossing, which is an intersection where Districts 2 and 4 meet. “We invested in our community. We invested in our neighborhoods.”
The process of seeing the lamps rebuilt from urban ruin was a collaborative endeavor among diverse neighborhood groups, according to Palumbo.
“There was a lot of deliberation over the lights,” Palumbo said. During the project’s planning, he located an antique postcard showing the Atlantic Avenue promenade’s original lamps, which helped guide the purchase of historically appropriate globe lights and the shoring up of the lamps’ original foundations. “We restored the concrete pillars so that it’ll last for another 110 years.”
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
Savannah Aldermen Detric Leggett (left) and Nick Palumbo view a new streetlight at the intersection of Victory Drive and Atlantic Avenue.
While the lamps will help illuminate this crossing during darker times of day, Palumbo said that it remains a dangerous intersection for walkers and bikers.
“They still have no protection. They’re just gunning it across the street,” Palumbo said.
However, the work at this intersection is not yet done, Palumbo said − the Georgia Department of Transportation has agreed to install pedestrian-activated traffic signals at this crossing later in 2021, and future plans include adding ramps to the stairs onto the long promenade.
Palumbo hopes to build on the momentum of the Atlantic Avenue crossing improvements by drawing attention to the innumerable barriers experienced by Savannah residents who do not drive or experience limited mobility. He aims to introduce a “Complete Streets” ordinance later this year highlighting the need for additional crosswalk improvements and better access to pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“The most under-appreciated freedom that we have is the freedom of mobility,” Palumbo said, noting that Savannah was famously founded as an eminently walkable community, but is now predisposed to car traffic to the detriment of those who don’t drive, resulting in many pedestrian-vehicle accidents. “Only a quarter of the city has a sidewalk on either side of the street.”
Although the Complete Streets ordinance is only in planning stages, Palumbo said that its goals would include analyzing right-of-way access citywide and building on safe-mobility initiatives like Savannah’s Tide to Town urban-trail system.
“There’s a long way to go with it,” Palumbo said.