The Savannah River Landing development is initiated by the Ambling Companies that envisions to expand Savannah's downtown including two hotels, retail space, restaurants, Class A office space, 17 "waterfront estates," 110 houses, 600 condominiums, and six new squares that emulate the squares designed by General James Oglethorpe. Eighty hundred million dollars will be needed to implement the fifty-four acre Savannah River Landing development plan.
Source: Savannah Morning News
The development also creates a tax allocation district that approved by a referendum on November 2006. The Savannah City Council has agreed to provide $57.5 million in bonds for fueling the tax allocation district. Most bonds will be issued when the Ambling constructs a building and the tax money is coming in. The bonds will provide funds for several public projects, as follows:
- New parking garage: $13 million
- Improvements to Spencer and East Broad elementaries: $10 million
- Improvements to the Bilbo canal drainage system: $10 million
- Elevate and landscape East President Street: $9.5 million
- Extend River Street rail line east: $3.6 million
- Eliminate General McIntosh Boulevard and improve Congress and Randolph streets: $3.5 million
- Funding to help developer build park and squares in Savannah River Landing: $600,000
- Design and contingency: $582,850
- Extend riverwalk eastward: $800,000 (to complement $8 million state budget)
- Improvements to Broughton Street: $500,000
- Improvements to Bay Street and signals: $500,000
Not only will the Savannah River Landing development expand the Savannah's downtown but enhance the vitality of Savannah, particularly as the tourist destination in the nation. With regard to tourism in Savannah, let me cite an Op-Ed by Joe Marinelli, president of the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau published in the Savannah Morning News on May 17, 2007:
A diverse and vibrant local economy is imperative to our community and tourism is an economic driver that is vital to Savannah's prosperity.
Tourism compliments the three other large industries that are considered major economic drivers locally: manufacturing, ports and military. Acknowledging tourism means recognizing its importance to Savannah's image and its role and impact as the second largest industry in our city for economic development.
In terms of direct, indirect and induced expenditures, travel in America is a $1.3 trillion industry. Bringing that home to Savannah, in 2005 more than 6.82 million people traveled to our beautiful city, generating $1.47 billion in visitor spending. These visitors produced $12 million in city and county bed tax.
Travel-related taxes benefit our community in some very important ways, including reducing taxes paid by residents, encouraging entrepreneurial opportunities, generating pride and enthusiasm among locals and helping to provide for urban and neighborhood revitalization.
The tourism industry is diverse and wide-ranging, from obvious segments such as airlines, airports, rental cars, taxis, tour buses and hotels to countless small businesses found within our community, such as restaurants, museums, retail shops and even the beaches of Tybee Island.
In a 2005 study done by D.K. Shifflet, it was concluded that more than 22,000 jobs can directly be attributed to tourism. From entry-level employees to top-level executives, tourism-related jobs in Savannah and throughout the United States can be found in numerous fields that provide continual income growth and endless career opportunities.
At the CVB, we see huge opportunities as our tourism product continues to change
From the Savannah River Landing project on East President Street to all that is currently being discussed with Chatham County officials for parcel 7, slip 3, near the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center (including The Reserve at Savannah Harbor), major changes to our riverfront's landscape means visitors will continue to come back for return visits.
In fact, the research recently done by Shifflet show that 60 percent of visitors to Savannah visit again and 50 percent of those who return will do so for an average of five times or more. Except for cities like Las Vegas, New York, Washington D.C. and Orlando, few other destinations can make such a claim.
We are very enthusiastic about the revitalization of Broughton Street, the long-awaited resurgence of Ellis Square and the development along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. In fact, we are now working with the City of Savannah on its master plan, revamping the existing Visitor Information Centers, with the possibility of adding more, and participating in an upcoming study of River Street and how it this wonderful attraction could evolve in the future.
All of us here in Savannah should be proud of the top-notch festivals and events that draw visitors into town who are willing to spend money. Celebrations such as the world-class St. Patrick's Day festivities, the Savannah Music Festival, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the Black Heritage Festival, the Savannah Film Festival and the Enmark Bridge Run all add to the charm and personality of our beloved city.
Savannah can thank many people for the success of the tourism industry in our local economy, from General James Edward Oglethorpe, for laying out such a beautiful and interesting city, to Paula Deen for being such a great ambassador, making Savannah a place where people choose to visit.
The CVB also appreciates the support of all businesses, large and small, which have played an important role ensuring that Savannah continues to be a must-see tourist destination with visitors from all 50 states, Canada, Europe, and even as distant as the Far East and South America.