$41.5 million plan presented for Savannah’s proposed Canal District

A consultant’s team presented the Savannah City Council on Tuesday with a revised plan to develop the area around the new arena, along with an estimated $41.5 million price tag for the project.

 

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 area of focus lies west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Louisville Road and Interstate 16, amid the Carver Village community to the west and Brickyard neighborhood to the north.

The improvements are all planned for property the city already owns. Additional housing, retail and office development on vacant, former industrial sites on the east side of the canal and other surrounding areas is expected to follow.

The increased property values from those investments, and an estimated $7 million in increased annual tax revenue, could help pay off bonds the city may need to borrow to pay for the public improvements, said James Hartling of Urban Partners.

“That’s a menu,” Hartling said. “We’re not making any recommendations.”

The city will also have to likely include the project on the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, said City Manager Rob Hernandez.

The plan is to eventually make similar improvements further south along the canal to Bowles Ford Park and then to the Tatemville community, which is estimated to cost an additional $34.5 million.

Those three phases of the Canal District will probably take between 15 to 20 years to complete, but the arena itself could be completed by 2021, Hernandez said.

Last May, Barrett Sports Group reported it would cost about $140 million to construct an arena that would accommodate up to 9,300 patrons for hockey, basketball, boxing, concerts and other events. On Tuesday, Daniel Barrett, the consulting firm’s owner, indicated that the price may have gone up since then, however.

“I don’t want to pour cold water on this, but that ($140 million) was a year ago,” Barrett said.

That amount does not include development of the Canal District, demolishing the existing arena or the estimated $20 million cost of relocating city departments such as public works from the new arena site, where the city’s street sweepers currently are parked.

Tuesday’s presentation came after the council voted last June to pay Barrett an additional $242,150 to come up with the plan for the Canal District. The previous council, under Mayor Edna Jackson, had approved the original $175,800 contract with the consultant to do the arena study in May 2015.

Savannah Alderman Van Johnson said that it was crucial that the city start showing voters they are making progress on the arena and others projects that were approved in past tax referendums.

“We won’t even get to SPLOST seven if we don’t move some of these projects off of five and six,” Johnson said.

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Thu, 08/17/2017 - 11:46pm

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