City officials and residents of Edgemere/Sackville on Friday celebrated the start of a new neighborhood revitalization program that is meant to alleviate blight in the community.
The Savannah Shines kick-off event included a ground-breaking for a new playground on some vacant land at Delesseps Avenue and Cedar Street that the city plans to develop as a park.
But city staffers and elected officials say they are committed to doing much more than a ceremonial dirt toss.
Edgemere/Sackville’s selection marks the beginning of what will be a long effort that will probably stretch beyond his time in office to address similar issues throughout all of Savannah’s neighborhoods, said Mayor Eddie DeLoach.
“This is a start, but it is not the finishing line,” DeLoach said.
City officials say they will focus resources in the community for 18 to 24 months in collaboration with residents and other partners in an attempt to reduce the amount of blighted properties in the neighborhood. The initiative includes educating residents about home-improvement financial assistance programs and working with landlords to restore derelict properties, in addition to aggressively enforcing property maintenance violations.
Residents will live up to their end of the bargain by working to assist in the effort and continue to work toward the community’s improvement even after the program’s end, said Edgemere/Sackville Neighborhood Association President Cynthia Hopson.
“I feel like we won the lottery,” Hopson said. “And we plan to use our winnings wisely.”
The city selected Edgemere/Sackville as the first neighborhood for the program after ranking Savannah’s communities according to crime, property maintenance violations and delinquent tax rates. The support and engagement of residents was also a factor in the selection process and the neighborhood had to have a registered association to be considered, said city spokeswoman Michelle Gavin.
“This selection did not happen by chance,” Gavin said. “The icing on the cake is having residents who are ready to jump in and make their neighborhood better.”
While Edgemere/Sackville may be getting some extra attention, city services and programs will continue throughout the city and the program is eventually expected to shift to other areas, according to officials.
West Savannah Community Organization President Ronald Williams, who attended Friday’s kick-off, said the city had considered launching the program in his neighborhood, but he understood Edgemere/Sackville had its own issues. West Savannah residents are willing to wait their turn and maybe learn some ways to improve their own neighborhood in the meantime, Williams said.
“What’s good for this area is going to be good for West Savannah,” he said.