PROPERY MATTERS: Developer repos property donated for Savannah police and fire station

This sign at 80 Grand Prize of America Ave. touted the "Future site" of the Hutchinson Island Fire Station for years before the property was transferred back to the developer in January.
This sign at 80 Grand Prize of America Ave. touted the "Future site" of the Hutchinson Island Fire Station for years before the property was transferred back to the developer in January.

Easy come. Easy go. The saying could be applied to the city’s acquisition and recent loss of almost two acres on Hutchinson Island.

A developer recently repossessed the property that had been donated to the city after plans for a Savannah police and fire station at the site never moved forward.

When the property at 80 Grand Prize of America Avenue was donated in early 2016, the agreement included a provision allowing the developer to take back possession if the city did not use the site for the public purpose.

Last month, John Cay’s development group, Savannah Harbor Partners, exercised that right and reclaimed the site, which has remained undeveloped more than seven years after the city held a press conference announcing the project.

When asked about the property transfer, Cay said via email that the city was not ready to begin construction of the building and there will be an alternative site for the project when they are prepared to proceed. However, Cay said he did not know whether the new location, which has yet to be identified, will be donated or not.

The loss of the donated site comes about seven years after the city council approved a $337,765 contract with Hussey, Gay, Bell, & DeYoung Engineers & Architects to design the building. That design was unveiled at a press event at the site in October that year. At the time, construction was expected to begin within the next two years and be funded by special purpose local option sales tax funds.

The city expects an alternative location for the public safety building to be donated and construction will be based on a timeline associated with the island’s anticipated growth, according to city spokesperson Nick Zoller. While the city plans to use the existing building design, the ability to do so could be impacted by limitations or challenges with the eventual site, Zoller said via email on Monday.

click to enlarge PROPERY MATTERS: Developer repos property donated for Savannah police and fire station
Eric Curl
Apartment construction is underway at the 27-acre site known as parcel 5.

Meanwhile, the SPLOST funding has since been reallocated to support the construction of a fire station for the Highlands community. The project could get some funding from the city’s recently approved impact fee ordinance. The public safety facility was included in a capital improvement plan approved by the city council when the ordinance was adopted last week.

The project is not dependent on the ordinance’s passing, however, and will be based on need, specifically population and emergency response time, Zoller said.

City officials are attributing the project’s delay due to the housing bust, a deep recession and years of slow recovery on Hutchinson, thereby impacting the need and timeline for a station.

Planned developments on the island have been stalled for years before construction activity and investment picked up in 2021.

The donated property is located across the street from where Savannah Harbor Partners is developing  a 27-acre site along the Savannah River east of the Westin and Savannah Convention Center. Plans for the site, known as parcel 5, include housing, retail and lodging, along with a public waterfront park, medical complex and marina. Construction of the apartment buildings at the site began in 2021 and buildings can now be seen rising from the site across the Savannah River from downtown.

Cay said the development group has not determined what will be done with the former public safety facility property, which is located on another development site known as parcel 6. The development group is currently focused on parcel 5,  with construction a new hotel and condominiums expected to come next, he said.

Last August, the Chatham County Commission approved a $3.36 million contract to dredge the slip and accommodate a marina being developed as part of the Savannah Harbor mixed-use development.

The Savannah Convention Center expansion is also underway to the west of parcel 5, while another developer, Alabaman-based Daniel, recently submitted a plan for a 288-unit apartment complex on a 16-acre site on the north side of the island.

In addition, Mopper Turner Investments purchased almost nine undeveloped acres of the long-stalled Residences at Savannah Harbor development on Hutchinson for $2.4 million in December 2021. The purchase came after the partnership between real estate broker Dickey Mopper and developer Bob Turner purchased in Sept. 2021 149 lots located in the 19-year-old planned community for $5.2 million.

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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