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Residential Real Estate

Aug. 30 – Public's chance tonight to provide input on the ‘blank slate’ of the Coastal Fairgrounds property owned by City

Category: Residential Real Estate

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

August 30, 2016 – The public will have an opportunity to provide input tonight about how they would like to see the Coastal Fairgrounds property on Savannah’s Westside developed, at a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Alderwoman Estella Shabazz this evening.

The event will be held starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Liberty City Community Center, 1401 Mills B. Lane Blvd. in District 5.

There are no definitive plans as of yet, nor an approved Master Plan.

Instead, the Savannah City Council voted 8 to 1 last month to buy the property in order to control its future use.  Only Alderman-at-Large Brian Foster was opposed, concerned about the price and potential future capital investment that might be needed, versus other needs the City of Savannah also faces from its financial resources.

In response to his questions, a staff memo was developed to outline one scenario of how the 67-acre parcel might be used, the ‘upland’ areas, the acreage that would have demolition activity, the acreage involved in a former trash dump, and any wetlands.

The City could opt to sell the extensive acreage to a private developer, or retain portions of the land for public parks and recreational usage, one of the community resources that Alderwoman Shabazz believes is needed in this portion of her district. 

It has been estimated that in addition to the $3 million the City paid for the land, it could cost approximately $2 million to provide road, water and sewer improvements if the city decides to approve a residential Master Plan by a private developer, though these costs are theoretically recouped over future years through an increase in property taxes, and water and sewer fees. 

All of the developable land will be sold off, except for recreational land the City would retain, explained Bret Bell.  The City of Savannah would not be the developer.

“That’s the business model, just like Savannah Gardens,” he explains.

“We would partner with HCSA would would sell the land off to for non-profit and for-profit housing developers.  All of CHSA’s bonds have now been paid off for Savannah Gardens, for example,” he added.  “The City has broken even on that project.” .

 

What is CHSA, Inc?

 

The Community Housing Services Agency, Inc. (CHSA) is a partnership between the city, local banks, and community leaders, with the primary function is to help fund the creation and retention of affordable rental housings. Projects range from single-family houses to multi-family apartments. It’s mission to provide an opportunity for property owners to upgrade existing structures providing quality, affordable housing.

Portions of the land could also be sold off to a private developer to cover a portion of the land acquisition costs.  And, often, after new residential development projects come into a blighted or less affluent area, the value of all real estate in the area increases, generating higher property tax revenues.  

The staff memo was developed for Foster and Shabazz, and looked at one scenario of how the land might be developed, with projected costs. 

t did not, however, provide five, 10 or 20 year projections of increased tax revenues from the area - the return on investment recoup the expense, according to Foster.

The staff memo included a scenario of the city retaining land for and building public recreational facilities, as well as the cost of public infrastructure - roads, sewers and fire protection - in additional to demolition work of the existing structures on the property.  The capital costs were projected to be as high as $14 million. 

The memo also indicates that 16 acres of the site could be developed by the Housing Authority to build between 90 and 190 homes, similar to the successful projects on the Eastside of the city. 

There is also some interest by the Chatham County Board of Education in usage of a portion of the land in the area, a

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