March 21, 2018
For Immediate Release
City Taking Major Steps to Preserve Savannah’s Landmark District
SAVANNAH, GA (March 21, 2018) — The City of Savannah has reviewed the National Park Service’s (NPS) Integrity and Conditions Assessment of the Savannah National Historic Landmark District.
As cited in this report, the status of Savannah’s Landmark District has not changed. It was designated as “Priority 1 Threatened” when it was last assessed in 2002, and it is recommended in this report to remain at “Priority 1 Threatened.” For the past 15 years the City has been working with local stakeholders to address most of the concerns noted in the report, with the goal of striking a balance between preservation, development, tourism and quality of life.
The National Park Service Assessment notes major factors for continuing to list the Landmark District as “threatened”:
- Incompatible construction related to the number of hotel developments, townhouses and apartments built on large lots, mid-twentieth century properties not listed as contributing resources, rooftop additions, and variances to City code
- Need to protect underground resources through archeology
- Loss of historic sidewalk and street paving materials and trees on private property
- Threats to the Oglethorpe Plan by not restoring Elbert and Liberty squares as well as the loss of open space between buildings and corresponding lanes
- Protection of historic resources after a natural disaster or catastrophic event
- Growth of short-term vacation rentals
- Outdated zoning ordinances “that have allowed developers to find greater benefit to constructing hotels over multi-family buildings”
- Intangible threats like noise, pollution, and enforcement issues associated with the bonus story incentive
Since 2003 the City of Savannah has taken major steps to address all of these concerns, including:
• Approval of refined design review guidelines to include a historic district height map and revised zoning ordinance (2003)
• Development of additional standards to regulate large-scale development (2009)
• Creation of local zoning policies to restore Savannah’s Town Plan with the goal of restoring areas which were significantly altered (2009)
• Restoration of Ellis Square, one of Savannah’s lost squares (2010)
• Restoration of a majority of buildings on Broughton Street and the edges of the Historic District (2015-2017)
• Adoption of a text amendment to incentivize residential development in the Landmark District (2017)
• Revision of the Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance to limit the spread of STVRs in the Landmark District. (2017)
• Completion of the City Hall Assessment and Restoration Plan to preserve the City’s building inventory (2018)
• Adoption of the Hotel Overlay District to limit the location of large-scale hotels downtown (2018)
• Adoption of the Tourism Management Plan, which seeks to balance tourism with quality of life for residents (2018)
In January 2018, the City also launched a new Planning and Urban Design Department to provide planning and design services to enhance the livability and sustainability of Savannah. Before the end of the year, this department will assist with the development and adoption of two new ordinances to protect historic resources, the archeology and historic pavement ordinances.
The City of Savannah will continue to work with partners like the National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Office, Historic Savannah Foundation, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Georgia Trust and other like stakeholders to protect and preserve the Savannah National Historic Landmark District designation.