As usual, Jim Morekis’ October 3rd Connect Savannah editorial is spot on. Morekis examines the Civic Center’s future and the city’s survey asking for our feedback. The aging, ugly Civic Center represents Savannah’s sliding scale of development and preservation. Morekis writes, “When history, or more accurately, historical character, becomes just another commoditized data point in a real estate marketing campaign, then it can be disposed of that much more easily… And make no mistake: Savannah is a product now, a commodity to be bought and sold at a profit.”
Savannah is at a tipping point; the very history and culture that made its tourism industry and encouraged so many to move here has become commodified. Remember the cruise ship near-debacle? The city spent nearly $200,000 on a second study to determine cruise ships were a bad idea. Short-term vacation rentals are a current debate, leading downtown residents to ask, who is this neighborhood for?
The National Historic Landmark District’s status is threatened, which is another indicator of too much development, not enough consideration of what development is really needed. Many do not realize that the Cuyler-Brownsville Historic District is also threatened. A 2017 Savannah Morning News editorial noted, “At least 100 buildings that contributed to the neighborhood’s historic designation about 20 years ago have been razed, according to the Chatham County Metropolitan Planning Commission, which tracks such data. Indeed, within the past five years, at least eight homes that dated back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been demolished.” And of course, we still have no archaeological ordinance, leading to countless, erased histories with each swipe of the backhoe.
So what is important to you? What is important to Savannah?
Morekis writes, “For many newer folks to town, the idea of Savannah’s history is just that — an idea. Not a relatable, everyday reality.” So this site will start an occasional series, Backyard History to connect Savannahians to their history and make it a relatable, everyday reality.
Please take the survey, tell the city what is important to you. Get engaged. Vote. Because doing nothing will lead to exactly that… nothing worthwhile left in Savannah.