Savannah City Council could decide the future of the former Coastal Empire Fairgrounds ownership by the end of the month, according to Savannah City Manager Jay Melder.
The land has remained untapped since the 67-acre parcel at 4801 Meding Street was sold for $ 2.9 million in 2016.
Three companies are currently in the running to develop the property, and Melder said he hopes to have a recommendation that the board vote on at the October 28 board meeting.
“I think we are within reach of this, but I will not commit to it, but it is my hope,” said Melder, present an update on the board process at a board workshop on October 14.
The most recent request for proposals (RFP) was released in June 2020, with the board voting a few months later to accept proposals from the Savannah Bridge Development Team, Knott Development and the P3 Joint Venture Group.
The three groups presented their plans to council in July. The property’s potential concepts were also unveiled at open house events, which drew hundreds of residents from across the city.
The concepts encompass a wide variety of uses ranging from retail and commercial to housing, entertainment, and the film and television production space.
In his update to the council last week, Melder said the city is currently evaluating all proposers’ responses on 10 different obligations. These include traffic, parks and recreation, offices, zoning and parking, community plaza and green spaces. A proposal must satisfy all 10 elements in order to proceed to the next phase.
Foremost among these mandatory items is traffic, Melder said.
“We have neighborhood streets that have houses and driveways and we have limited rights of way on many streets that enter the property,” he said.
“We have seen a lot of traffic calming requests historically, especially on Meding Street, but all along this corridor and some challenges and issues historically, with the traffic volumes in the neighborhood.”
According to figures presented at the council workshop, the adjacent streets around the property register just over 8,000 vehicle movements per day. The Knott plan will increase this number to 19,769; P3 at 12,946 and Savannah Bridge at 20,968.
Melder said that with regard to traffic, the assessment plan will examine whether or not the surrounding streets can adequately handle the increase in the number of vehicles per day; whether or not the level of service of the surrounding traffic infrastructure would provide a reasonable level of service; and whether plans for residential and commercial uses are impractical or adversely affect neighborhoods and quality of life.
Flood water and floodplain mitigation as well as zoning are also major concerns. The property has approximately 27 usable acres, of which 40 acres are in the floodplain.
The site is currently zoned Conservation – Park and will have to go through the rezoning process for a certain amount of zoning change, regardless of which proposal comes to mind.
The next phase for proposals that meet the 10 mandatory elements will be the economic analysis. The economic analysis will be determined by the total increase in the appraised value of the property due to the planned improvements to the developments, plus the sealed purchase price, Melder said.
“If a proposal is found to be unreasonable or has inappropriately inflated its value, it will also be rejected at this point,” he said.
The best proposal will go through a planned development process.
The future of the site, which is one of the city’s largest undeveloped properties, has been the subject of discussion among community members and administrations for several years.
The city first reviewed the property in 2015 under former mayor Eddie DeLoach. At that time, most council members advocated affordable housing for the site, as well as outdoor recreation.
The housing plans were scrapped after neighboring residents and District 5 Alderman Estella Shabazz objected to the idea. The property is located in District 5.
In 2017, the board unanimously rejected an offer from the private investment group of state representative Craig Gordon, Aerospace Studios, to purchase approximately 15 acres of the property to develop a film and television production studio.
Gordon, who was not a candidate for re-election to the Georgia General Assembly in 2020, is a senior partner of the P3 Joint Venture group currently vying to develop the site.
In 2019, city staff recommended that council issue a request for proposals to get a nonprofit to take one to two acres for $ 1 and develop it as a recreation facility. public at the expense of the organization.
This idea met with opposition from locals and Shabazz and did not take shape.
“I understand that I am the sixth city manager to work on this project and I intend to be the last city manager and move this project forward,” Melder told council.
Katie Nussbaum is the city and county government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: KnussSMN