The Savannah City Council hopes to include a $41.5 million revitalization project in their next SPLOST referendum, and it’s of the scale that is best described as transformative:
The proposed Canal District around the planned arena west of downtown is expected to feature a 55-acre park with lakes, walking and biking paths, and athletic fields, said urban designer Christian Sottile of Sottile & Sottile. The Springfield Canal would also be widened to improve drainage and accommodate recreational boating. A plaza similar to the Savannah Riverwalk would line the widened canal east of the arena site at Gwinnett Street and Stiles Avenue, south of the proposed park. Road improvements would also be made to better accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles, and provide improved connections to downtown.
“We’re not just thinking of the the arena as being in a bubble, but we’re thinking of how the arena is knitted into a neighborhood,” Sottile said.
The arena, which will cost at least $140 million, will hold 9,300 people and will be used for events including hockey, basketball, boxing, and concerts. The existing arena will be demolished, and the city will need to find a new home for the street sweepers (the machines – not, like, people with brooms, so slow your roll, Emily Litella) that currently occupy the site of the new arena.
Savannah’s City Council deserves credit not just for moving forward on their existing SPLOST projects like the arena, but for continuing with the process of transforming and revitalizing what will very likely become an engine for long-term economic development in Georgia’s first city.