A plan from the General Services Administration for a new Federal Annex right across from Telfair Square has not been too popular since it was unveiled almost a year ago. As a matter of fact, Savannah attorney Scott Barnard, one of five local members of an advisory committee, said the first design looked like something that belonged “in the desert.”
The GSA did a “take two” as a result of feedback like that and in May, came up with a second design that satisfied some of the local concerns, but raised new ones. In June, that design was considered at a public hearing. For Barnard, there were two big problems with the second design. It called for the “bathroom tile” building on the South side to be demolished and a new courthouse type building constructed in its place. It then called for the second building on the north Trust Lot to be demolished to make way for a parking lot.
Barnard told us in June that a parking lot was like “missing an eye” when it came to following the overall Oglethorpe Square plan.
Fast forward and he says the GSA apparently listened to feedback from citizens and local and state leaders. About two months ago, he says the GSA changed the design again.
“That’s a big win,” Barnard told us Monday. “The North Trust lot building stays and it’s not going to be a parking lot.”
Barnard says information on the change was conveyed “to the Historic Review Board.”
He and others are hoping that since the North Lot tile building is now staying that it gets a facelift and is rented out for office space, etc. Barnard says they don’t yet know what the plan is for the additional parking that may be needed with the new Annex, but the hope is that the call for underground tunnels to utilize already existing underground parking, is considered.
Barnard suggests putting a basement in the new structure planned for the South lot. He says the basement creates the opportunity to put in a tunnel system later. It’s not known if GSA would be willing to consider this request in terms of cost or design impacts.
Barnard is hopeful it will. He says many in the design community “think we need to go this final ten yards.”
He certainly credits the GSA with considering the concerns of locals. Barnard is encouraging many in Savannah to keep track of what happens next, saying the GSA will likely present the latest plan to the Historic Review Board after the first of the year.