PROPERTY MATTERS: Nonprofit's plans for Cuyler-Brownville get go ahead from city

Galvan has already purchased the fire damaged, historic property at 2205 MLK, along with the vacant lot. Eric Curl/Jan. 14, 2023
Eric Curl
Galvan plans to develop these vacant lots on Lavinia Street with single-family housing. Eric Curl/Jan. 14, 2023

The Galvan Foundation plans to get started early this year with the development of single-family houses on three vacant lots on Lavinia Street, after the Savannah City Council approved the New York nonprofit’s plans this month to acquire city properties and build housing in Cuyler-Brownville.

The Land Bank Authority will first need to approve the sale after the properties are transferred from the city. Galvan’s plans will also need approval from the Historic Preservation Commission since Cuyler-Brownville has been designated a local historic district.

Galvan intends to develop the properties in accordance with the Land Bank Authority’s affordability guidelines by including a combination of housing for people earning up to 80% of the average median income (AMI) and households earning up to 120% of the AMI, according to Galvan’s treasurer, Dan Kent.

Rents will be at or below HUD published fair market rents and mortgage payments are expected to range between $1,100 and $1,300 monthly, according to city staff’s presentation to the city council last week.

“These are both projects and programs that are structured to be affordable to lower income residents and be affordable for people with housing choice vouchers, which we know is a challenge in Savannah for people to even find a place that will accept a voucher,” Kent told me during an interview on Friday.

Kent said there are already a lot of private developers interested in investing in Cuyler-Brownville and the nonprofit’s partnership with the city will help keep the neighborhood affordable for existing residents.

“Cuyler-Brownville and the city of Savannah just needs more housing in general,” he said. “Because if you don’t create new housing, then what is currently affordable housing ends up going to the highest bidder and doesn’t stay affordable.”

In addition to the anticipated $5 million investment developing the city lots, Galvin is also contributing $1 million to the city’s Savannah Affordable Housing Fund for housing improvements, new housing and down-payment assistance. The proposed investment is in addition to $50,000 that Galvan contributed to the fund in 2022.

The nonprofit is not limiting its development activity to housing or the city owned properties.

Galvan has already acquired one Cuyler-Brownville property, a fire damaged house built in 1901 that has been vacant for more than two decades. Kent said the nonprofit intends to restore the historic building at 2205 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but have not yet determined what they will do with the adjacent vacant lot that was part of the purchase from the Historic Savannah Foundation.

“We’re interested in having an impact on the neighborhood as a whole,” Kent said. “That includes housing development, but it also includes development of community facilities and anything else that folks see as a need in the neighborhood. 

“That’s a big part of our community engagement process, talking to local leaders and local residents and figuring out what the opportunities are and what kind of successes there are in the neighborhood that we can build on.”

About The Author

Eric Curl

When not wandering the streets with his canine companion, Eric Curl is probably reading building permits and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters on to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at
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