Savannah City Council votes to demolish Civic Center

Local News

We now know what will happen to the Savannah Civic Center. On Thursday, Savannah City Council voted to demolish the facility.

The Urban Land Institute-Atlanta has been studying best uses for the Civic Center for months. They say the best use is to demolish the building and return that area to the spirit of the Oglethorpe Plan.

The Civic Center was built in 1972. Four decades later, it’s outlived its usefulness. The bottom line is Savannah isn’t big enough for the Civic Center and the new arena if the city is paying for upkeep on both facilities.

Mayor Eddie DeLoach explained, “What we’d have to spend to make that whole was not worth doing
as far as the community is concerned. We feel like we’ve got an arena going in there that will do what we need. Most of the things that we need to happen can happen at that arena.”

The Civic Center was constructed under the umbrella of Urban Renewal in the 1970s, and they granted an exception to the Oglethorpe Plan. And one square was partially lost decades before the Civic Center was built.

This is all that remains of Elbert Square, but the demolition of the Savannah Civic Center will actually restore another full square which will boost the city’s historical status with the National Park Service.

“Recreating both of those squares enforces the point we are concerned about the fact we are a historical city, and we continue to be that,” DeLoach added. “I think that will help.”

Removal of the Civic Center opens the door for the city to pursue mixed-use development which allows more than just the revival of a square. The study says the estimated land value, once cleared is $12-18 million. Demolition will cost $3-4 million and then site prep is another $5 million.

The net value could range between $3-11 million.

In the long term, it could generate nearly $1.5 million in taxes a year after that, but the fact it could return some of Savannah’s lost historical status is priceless.

Luciana Spracher, director of the Savannah Municipal Archives said. “The re-establishment of the Oglethorpe plan will be huge, both to our residents and citizens, but also our visitors arriving at that gateway.”

The timetable for demolition is about four years after the new arena is finished.

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