Re: 18 January Special Called Meeting for 602/620/630 East River Street
MPC Staff and Historic District Board of Review,
DNA’s Mission is to enhance the quality of residential life in the Historic Landmark District and to protect Savannah’s unique downtown environment.
The Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association wishes to express our deep concerns regarding the proposed development of the River Street East hotel and parking complex, as described in the developer’s submissions, to be addressed at today’s hearing. To summarize our rationale, we believe this proposed massive, resort-style project is totally out-of-scale with the Factors Walk Character area of which it would be a part; it requests a myriad of variances and exceptions to current city historic development guidelines that are in place to retain Savannah’s unique historic character; nearly 600 feet of precious riverfront views would be forever lost to the citizens of Savannah; and in the nearly five years this parcel has been under review, the gaps between what the developer wishes to build and what the city is recommending have grown larger, not smaller – so progress is not being made. The DNA supports the good work of city staff in its repeated reviews to try to steer this massive proposal within reasonable bounds. Additionally, we believe there is an opportunity here for the Historic Board of Review to support recent forward-thinking decisions by the City Council to stand by the city’s zoning and development ordinances, curtailing the practice of approving variances and exceptions such as those sought by the petitioner.
In addition to those macro concerns, there are other important details that also inform our position against this project.
- Arterial Road: Zoning District B-B requires that a hotel must front on an arterial road, and it is not clear to us from the plans we’ve seen that the proposed Hotel Anne meets that criterion.
- Variances/Exceptions: By our count, after five years, the current staff review lists some 15 change recommendations for the parking garage; 15 more for the proposed Hilton Hotel; and another 11 for the proposed Hotel Anne. The city and the petitioner are not even close to an agreement. As taxpayers, this project has tied up scarce and costly city resources for nearly five years. We think it’s time to consider giving petitioner deadlines to meet the city’s requirements instead of granting repeated, open-ended continuances.
- More Hotels: We do not agree with the petitioner’s suggestion that approval of this development will reduce pressure to develop additional over scaled hotels in the historic district. To date, we see nothing so far that has curbed the appetite to develop more large hotels in the historic district.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment and for your consideration. Your attention to this very important project is critical as the nature of its development will almost certainly have a material impact on the neighboring Savannah River Landing parcel.
Melinda D. Allen
President, Downtown Neighborhood Association of Savannah, GA Inc.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW RENDERINGS OF PROJECT