It was only a few months ago that Destination: Savannah Forward, a coalition of Savannah-based public and private institutions, brought PPS President Fred Kent to Savannah. Last February, Kent and over 300 Savannah citizens met to discuss how to transform the city’s car-oriented streets into pedestrian-friendly destinations, and how to create true gathering places in Savannah’s beautiful natural environment and historic squares.
Since then, Savannah’s citizens have taken bold action to begin making these plans reality. As Theodora Gongaware writes in Savannah Now , Savannians are working energetically to “make each neighborhood a destination by taking advantage of resources that were already in place. Our community accepted this challenge with style and vigor.”
Among the inspired changes taking place in Savannah are the premiere of the Blue Ocean Film Festival, the creation of a citywide Traffic Calming Task Force, and the first “meet and greet” for a group of citizens and local businesses in downtown Columbia Ward. That group plans to continue meeting in order to foster dialogue about using their community square creatively and starting a neighborhood watch program.
Public-private partnerships have been a key part of Savannah’s most creative projects. For example, the county government, the Historic Beach Neighborhood Association, and the Savannah Tree Foundation have teamed up to revitalize and replant a local park. Plans are also underway to move the historic Mother Matilda Beasley House to the park, upgrade existing ball fields, and build a pavilion to serve as a community gathering place.