Savannah’s downtown historic district is home to those who choose to reside there as well as SCAD students who are also in a sense “tourists”. “I still do not know my way around Savannah or how the whole parking thing goes. I’m just as clueless as all the other students who just got here. Most times I just leave the car around campus and walk wherever since everything is close.” Says, Matt another SCAD student. Due to the heavy populated area and welcoming of tourist, Savannah has a hard time harboring all the vehicles that make it into the historic district. Conrad, a senior at SCAD student said, “I enjoy Savannah, it’s cool. I have a moped so I do not have to really deal with the traffic hassle that some of my peers endure.” Not all residents of the downtown area have vehicles which make it that much easier. Some enjoy riding bikes, walking, or investing in a moped.
Given they have parking spaces marked throughout the city, it is known that these spaces are not enough for every vehicle that makes it downtown. There have been various parking garages built around the city that charge a fee to park vehicles for a specified time depending on where the vehicles are parked. Valet is also in high demand downtown where most hotels average price for valet is at least 20 dollars a night to provide a haven for the guest’s vehicle while they reside at the hotel. Andy, a local valet said, “It’s so many people here all weekend and during the week even it kind of makes the job fun. New people and new money every day you know.” Often it is hard for tourists to find a safe, cheap parking place on their own. This is way most hotels downtown choose to use the valet service as an asset to the customer’s experience. Tourist Annah Davis had this to say about the parking situation in Savannah. “This is my first time in Savannah and I definitely did not know I had to valet my car. I mean there are other options but still of course I want the car to be safe but 20+ dollars a day is sort of outrageous. If you don’t you risk it so it’s almost like you’re forced to go ahead and give it up. At least this way you know your vehicle is safe and you’ll always have a place to put it.”
Valet at The Double Tree by Hilton
Leonard Bostic, Senior Director of Parking Services had some vital information about parking in Savannah. “In the past people, have made many suggestions, one in which some wanted us to build more parking garages in the area. Before we conducted our research, it did look like we needed more garages. After research, we realized that we do not need more garages but to take advantage of all the street parking that is available. We are trying expand our shuttle services. This will help with the street parking if we can get people that work downtown to park in the garages and take the shuttle rather than taking up the street parking all day. We will continue to move forward with our parking matters initiative and fortifying our current plans.” Currently there are various parking garages located around the downtown historic district of Savannah. There are currently 5 city parking garages as well as 5 city parking lots located in the downtown area. People who wish to park on the street must abide by the city’s “smart card system”. Per the city of Savannah, “Pay-and-display parking meters accept city issued "Smart Cards". Smart Cards are pre-paid parking cards that can be used at the pay-and-display parking meters in addition to coins, currency, and credit cards. Pay-and-display meters are in the area generally bounded by River Street, Broughton Street, Martin Luther king Jr. Blvd, and East Broad Street.”
Savannah has implemented a campaign which is designed to fortify the parking situation in the city. The campaign “Parking Matters”; it is a collaborative effort between the CORE MPO, through the Chatham County- Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), and the City of Savannah. This initiative looks at the current statistics of the parking situation in savannah like usage, peak times, regulations, and the review of revenue. These aspects are considered and are to be revised by the city based off the research conducted. Local Valet Manager Wesley Johnson spoke on the parking initiative downtown; “I’ve seen the city try so many things but it just seems like whatever they do try it doesn’t work. If it does work it’s like it does not work for long, Savannah experiences so many changes within the city itself as far as construction and expansion it’s hard to keep up. I understand it is a tedious job but I do believe it is something they can do that can be put into play for a few years and not just a few months.”
Savannah has a zoning project that they are working on in which they are responsible for implementing new parking zone and making reduction to other. Along with non-college educational facilities, “lodging and office uses allowed a 25 percent reduction; restaurants and indoor entertainment allowed 40 percent; and colleges, churches and clothing retail allowed 50 percent. The first 5,000 square feet of general retail would be allowed a 60 percent reduction and residential units are required to reduce parking levels but still meet a minimum of one space per unit.”, Per the city of Savannah and parking services. This will assist with getting people on board with the new street parking rules as Mr. Bostic noted.
A similar set of reductions is allowed for the Victorian and Streetcar districts (shown in the diagrams on the following page), which together with the downtown districts constitute the entirety of the Parking Matters study area. The city of Savannah will be responsible to for these new changes.
Savannah will continue to show increase in tourism as the they have decided to deepen the 39-mile river canal by 5-feet possibly making it a cruise dock. The $706 million-dollar project started on September 14, 2015 and the contractor has until July 2018 to be to finished. Along with this expansion, Ben Carter introduced his plan in February 2014 to rebuild and reorganize business on Broughton street. Carter’s Broughton Street portfolio contains 37 properties with a total of about 700,000 square feet. About a third of that is ground-floor retail space; office space and renovated upper floor apartments make up the remainder.
Savannah will be glowing with new faces and a very fast increase in tourism as there will be even more reasons to visit the city. Ultimately, how Savannah handles the rezoning project will help the city understand what it needs to do about the parking deficit in the downtown area. The rapid increase in tourism will force the city to take advantage of any and every opportunity to expand the parking opportunities. Hopefully this gets done before and not during the influx of new faces.