June 25, 2020 – The Savannah City Council held a work session Thursday afternoon to fulfill the request by several members of the council who wanted more information about Planned Urban Developments (PUDs), and efforts by the developers of the Eastern Wharf to amend the previously approved PUD.  Rezoning attempts were postponed last month when various Council members had questions they wanted answered.  

Atty. Harold Yellen, representing Patrick Malloy Communities, explained the amendments the developer is seeking on height changes, setback changes and other variances from the previously approved PUD by the MPC for their portion of the overall Eastern Wharf project.

The Eastern Wharf project on President Street is a mixed-use project with hotels, parking, office buildings, retail stores and residential properties. The City of Savannah is a part-owner of a large parking garage within the Wharf project.  The riverfront walk has been extended to run the full length of Eastern Wharf. 

A PUD is sort of a “mini-city,” with a concept plan that is not necessarily highly detailed, according to Metropolitan Planning Commission representatives, who participated in the presentation.   Other examples in the city would include Savannah Gardens.

Yellen said that it is typical for developers to adjust housing designs during the rollout of a PUD, and said that there was an understanding “that they would be coming before you many, many times,” and “hopefully every change will make the project a better plan.” 

The Patrick Mallow Communities “Upper East River” portion of the overall project is seeking amendments to the PUD approved by the MPC back in 2016, comprising 12 acres of the overall Eastern Wharf Planned Urban Development (PUD) which is 56 acres in total, roughly twice the size of Forsyth Park.  Multi-unit condos and residences will be located along the river in the northeast corner of Eastern Wharf. 

“We have significant height and mass around us,” explained Mark Blair, for the developer. They are requesting rezoning, “to break up the mass along the riverfront,” asking for increased height from 60 ft. to 90 ft. tall structures.  The buildings behind them have been zoned to be as tall as 120 ft. tall, he explained.  

They would like to raise up the planned residential buildings to put parking under the buildings, and to have the ability to have a drive up for dropping off people at the entrances of buildings.

Alderwoman Alicia Blakely asked if there would be any affordable housing planned.  Yellen said that there is no definition of affordable housing or incentives to build that type of house within the city, and there was no affordable housing planned. 

After making several statements, and listening Yellen’s responses, Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter stated, “I have no interest in projects like this.  Probably the people you are marketing to have no idea that Savannah has twice the national average in poverty, and live in this beautiful corridor … good luck to them.”   

Appearing to support the changes requested, Alderman Nick Palumbo said that its very important to protect the visual appearance along the riverfront, and reminded the Council about the block design of the Hyatt Hotel next to City Hall, along the riverfront. 

Yellen asked if they could be on the July 9 City Council agenda for a vote.

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