google-site-verification: google5ae98130f18ad244.html

Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Text Size

Commercial Real Estate

March 21 – MidCity and Starland: For Bill Durrence, the Public is Going to Have to Get Used to Change

PHOTO: Representation of the building mass proposed for the multiple buildings that are part of a current version of the Starland Viillage project proposed by Foram Development, LLC on Bulll Street, between 38th and 39th Streets. One of the buildiings is potentially 85,000 sq ft in mass.

Planning Commission’s Approval of a  District Will have Significant Impact to Mid-City’s Future

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal 

March 21, 2018 – The proposed Starland Village project on Bull Street is a crystallization of the debate on the future of Savannah’s historic neighborhoods:  Will city officials change existing zoning districts that have restricted building heights and mass, controlled design, and require a specific number of parking spaces for the intended uses of a project, or will they support ‘in-filling’ of the city and embrace the concept that people will need to use public transportation and other modes of transportation to access their jobs or head to a restaurant or bar?       

Alderman Bill Durrence, who represents District 2 which includes both the heart of Savannah’s Historic District, and other core city neighborhoods including the Victorian District, the MIdCity District and the Thomas Square area, believes that “people are just going to have to get used to change. This is how you build a city,” he said, in an interview today, as the Savannah City Council gets ready to vote next week on new zoning amendments that passed the Planning Commission recently. The Commission’s vote, unless overturned by the City Council, will allow the Starland Village project proposed by the Foram group to move forward as currently conceived.  

On Feb. 27, the Planning Commission held a multi-hour meeting on the topic, based on a 26-page MPC staff report.  Up for consideration were multiple issues, including a request to establish a new zoning classification for the Mid-City District referred to as a TC-3 (Traditional Commercial-Mixed Use Development), and new text language regarding parking requirements, height changes and other amendments to the CIV classification. 

The MPC staff recommended denial of a new TC-3 district – because it was not appropriate for the area, and could lead to significant change on nine streets in the MidCity area - and recommended denial of the text amendments that would allow for the five-story project. But, the Planning Commission approved the new zoning classifications for the lots involved by a vote of 9 – 2, with one abstention.  The issue now moves to the City Council at their March 29 meeting.

What was approved was the text amendment to the ‘CIV District’ (see explanation below), which addressed a number of development standards, including height restrictions, building coverage on a lot, setbacks from the street, and the use of a proposed new type of mechanized parking garage in a CIV designated area.

There are five lots proposed for development by Foram, including the use of existing church on the block for a 900-seat entertainment venue. The project includes everything else on Bull Street between 38th and 39th, except for one building on the corner that is not part of the project, according to Marcus Lotson, Acting Director of Development Services for the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

The MPC’s new Executive Director, Melanie Wilson, has not yet arrived, set to begin her new job sometime in April.  The MPC is currently being led by Melanie West.

Proponents of the new zoning classification for the lots believe that much of the city's zoning is outdated zoning, due in part to the stalled “New ZO” – revisions to zoning classifications across the entire city that have been under discussion for more than a decade.

Durrence believes that residents are going to have to embrace a new view on parking, and views in-filling of the city as a positive, and was not opposed to the new TC-2 District, "conceptually," he states, though he had some specific problems with all aspects of it. 

The Foram Development, LLC. was seeking  the new zoning district classification, or rezoning of five parcels of their project, to allow for five story buildings and other elements that are currently prohibited.

The Mid-City District, established in 2005, was part of a rezoning study for the Thomas Square neighborhood and portions of the Metropolitan and Baldwin Park neighborhoods. Mid-City zoning is specific to this area and was adopted by the Mayor and Aldermen in 2005 as part of an extensive study that included input from residents, business owners and other property owners, recognizing that it was an local historic district. The zoning in the area protects certain standards and activities, such as new construction, exterior renovations and the demolition or moving of historic structures that contribute to the district must be reviewed, adopted to protect its historic and architectural character of the area. Opponents of the Starland Village project by the Foram group point out that they invested in the area, understanding the zoning protections that were in place. 

At the time of adoption of the MidCity District designation, four zoning districts were created, including CIV (Civic), TN-2 (Traditional Neighborhood), TC-1 (Traditional Commercial-Neighborhood) and TC-2 (Traditional Commercial Corridor). All zoning districts allow for mixed-use development (i.e. a combination of residential and non-residential uses), but each has a specific purpose that is identified in their intent/purpose statements according to the MPC staff report, explained as:

-The CIV District is intended to provide for civic and institutional district uses that serve a large area or produce intensive activities not readily assimilated into other districts;

- TN-2 (Traditional Neighborhood) is intended to ensure the vibrancy of historic residential neighborhoods with traditional development patterns characteristic of Savannah from 1890 to 1930 during the streetcar and early automobile era. While the district provides for primarily residential streets, it also includes limited nonresidential uses that were historically deemed compatible with the residential character of neighborhoods, specifically located as corner stores and limited ground-floor uses;

- TC-1 (Traditional Commercial-Neighborhood) is intended to ensure the vibrancy of historic mixed-use neighborhoods with traditional development patterns characteristic of Savannah from 1890 to 1930 during the streetcar and early automobile era. The district provides for commercial areas that are developed at a mass and scale harmonious with nearby residential neighborhoods.

- TC-2 (Traditional Commercial-Corridor): The TC-2 District is intended to ensure the vibrancy of historic mixed-use neighborhoods with traditional development patterns characteristic of Savannah from 1890 to 1930 during the streetcar and early automobile era. The district provides for arterial commercial corridors that traverse historic neighborhoods and serve through traffic and as well as local markets.

The lots in the block currently had different zoning classifications:  three of the five were CIV (church parcel at 2201 Bull Street); TN-2 (church surface parking lot at 19 W. 38th Street) and TC-1 (City of Savannah police sub-station lot at 2115 Bull Street).

“The applicant does not seek to use the existing districts or the TC-2 district but proposes a new TC-3 zoning classification,” explained the MPC staff, stating that a new TC-3 district would: “facilitate larger scale, mixed use development along arterial corridors within the Mid-City District in order to foster economic development and revitalization of the District.”

Two votes were taken by the MPC Commission on Feb. 27:  one was to approve the TC-3 District classification for the specific project. When that passed, the Foram withdraw its request to Rezone just the specific lots - 2201 Bull Street from a TC-1 Zoning District to a TC-3 (Traditional Commercial) District; 2215 Bull Street from a CIV (Civic) District to a TC-3 District; and, 19 W. 38th Street from a TN-2 (Traditional Neighborhood) District to TC-3 District. They won the larger prize.

A concept plan was attached to the agenda, though it was stated that it was “not finalized” but “provides an idea of the petitioner’s proposed development. As with any concept plan, uses and square footages are subject to change.”

The report states there would be a “Multi-family Apartment Building (54 units), Church Site Conversion of the church into an event venue with up to 900 people; construction of a building on the existing surface parking lot on Bull Street; office, retail, two restaurants (including one atop the roof). Church Surface Parking Lot A “lift” parking garage system for 160 vehicles that would be shared parking for all uses on the subject property, including the apartment building. A public park is proposed for the roof of the garage.”  The project now has 96 apartments, for example, according to opponents.  The design for Starland Village has continued to change since the Planning Commission vote, it appears.

According to the MPC staff, “On February 8, the agent notified MPC in an email that this concept plan was changing and that the developer’s architect was working on revisions. The following information was provided and is taken directly from the email: “-Height- Tallest point 58' (due to parapet) and majority of buildings 55' and less. -5 stories on north and south building. Upper floors are set back 5-10 feet from lower floors. -92 MF Units- Mix of studio, 1BD, and a few added 2BD (roughly 85,000sf+-) -10 artist studio spaces (roughly 1400sf total) -13,200 sf of Retail/Restaurant space -roughly 14,000sf event venue (Inclusive of off stage and green spaces for artists on upper floors) -160 Off-street parking spaces -Enclosed semi-automated parking structure with roof top park. Total height roughly 32 feet. -7600sf community rooftop park -1600sf community courtyard between existing historic buildings -15,500sf Private office/co-working space.

“As of February 16, MPC has not received a revised concept plan. Again, while not required, a concept plan shows what uses and development standards are proposed. This information is helpful to provide a recommendation for the best approach, which may be working with the existing zoning districts for the subject property (with some amendments) instead of creating a new zoning district,” states the staff report.

This approach was recently used for the TC-2 district to allow greater building height and density but limiting these changes to the Martin Luther King, Jr/Montgomery Street Urban Redevelopment Area (URA)/Enterprise Zone so as not to change TC-2-zoned properties elsewhere in Mid-City.

But, the staff report adds, “If the subject property is rezoned to TC-3, any of the uses permitted within the district could be developed. Likewise, development standards, such as maximum permitted height, would also apply. There is no requirement that a concept plan be followed, and there is no certainty the project shown will be constructed or that the three parcels will remain under the same ownership. As provided in more detail in the findings, some of the proposed uses are permitted in the existing zoning districts for the subject property and in the TC-2 district. The petitioner, however, prefers to create a new zoning district that, according to the proposed intent statement is to “facilitate larger scale mixed use development.”

Public notice of the Planning Commission meeting is not required by local or state law for text amendments. However, the MPC mailed notice of the related rezoning to all property owners within 300 feet of the subject property and the neighborhood association.

The notice indicated that a TC-3 district was proposed. A resident-initiated neighborhood meeting was held on Feb. 13 and was attended by the petitioner and agent for the petitioner. Specific TC-3 district information was not available; however, the agent shared information about the purpose of the district and the uses proposed.

Three MPC representatives attended this meeting. Earlier neighborhood meetings to discuss this project have occurred, but the MPC was not a participant, according to the staff.

“If adopted, TC-3 districts could be possible on nine streets. Within the Mid-City district, the following streets are identified as either a primary or secondary arterial street on the street classification map in Sec. 8-3025(g) of the zoning ordinance: Abercorn, Bull, Drayton, Habersham, Price, Montgomery, Victory, Whitaker and 37th Street. Functionally, some of these streets are not arterials - arterials are intended to move traffic more quickly because there should be fewer vehicular access points, writes the staff.

The TC-3 district could apply to “buildings and lots…within or adjacent to the MidCity District. If TC-3 is adopted, it would be the most development-standard permissive district within Mid-City, and it could be too encouraging of development that is out of context with surrounding properties and the neighborhood, in general,” wrote the MPC staff in its recommended denial.

See related story published March 21, 2018: FEATURE:  Is Starland Village Another Trojan Horse in Overriding Zoning in the MIdCity Area?

Comment (0) Hits: 6765

More Articles...

  1. FEATURE: Is Starland Village Another Trojan Horse in Overriding Zoning in the MIdCity Area ... or across the city?
  2. Feb. 26 - CRG Announces $57.5 Million Sale of Leased Speculative Industrial Building in Savannah, Georgia
  3. Jan. 31 - ​K​ole Management Company Acquires Atlanta Area Apartment Community, Heritage at Riverstone
  4. Oct. 18 - Colliers International brokers student housing sale near Georgia Southern University for $2.85 million
  5. Oct. 11 - Greystone Brown Real Estate Advisors Closes $18 Million Sale of Georgia Multifamily Acquisition
  6. Oct. 10 - Development team acquires 57-acre site adjacent to Historic District in Downtown Savannah
  7. Sept. 29 - Kole Management Expands to Charlotte Area, Buys Pavilion Village Apartments
  8. Aug. 31 – City Council votes to ‘test the water’ on selling Broughton Street and Thomas Gamble buildings
  9. July 3 - Kole Management Acquires Macon Luxury Apartment Community
  10. June 30 - J.W. Marriott at Plant Riverside District Signs First Group Contract with Georgia Municipal Association
  11. FEATURE: Savannah River Landing project moves forward with 6-0 Council vote to finalize negotiations with new developer
  12. May 23 – City Council to hear long list of Rezoning requests, including one that would pave way for new hotels on E. President St.
  13. Mar. 30 – State votes to sell wetlands to Savannah River Landings developer, needed to clear up property dispute
  14. Feb. 7 – Image Hotels to break ground on new Courtyard hotel in Pooler
  15. Jan. 23 - St. John Baptist Church buys Savannah Christian Prep’s DeRenne Campus with major expansion planned

Page 14 of 142

CLICK to SUBSCRIBE and Support Great Journalism!

Follow Us!

Coastal Empire News
Headquarters: 2222 Bull Street,Savannah, GA. 31401.
Tel: 912-220-2759 | Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.