SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The City of Savannah has demolished two properties on Cumming Street to continue its ongoing redevelopment initiative throughout the city. Mayor Van Johnson says he is continuing Former Mayor Eddie DeLoach’s efforts to reduce the number of abandoned properties in West Savannah.
More than half of the properties on Cumming St. are unsafe and violate municipal county maintenance codes. According to city statistics, 57 percent — or 21 of 37 properties — are abandoned or blighted on Cumming Street.
The city recently purchased 7 properties — including 231 Cumming St., 236 Cumming St. and their adjoining vacant lots — through eminent domain. The plan is to build four new homes for “modest-income” families. City leaders said the vacant lots were being used as “illegal dump sites.”
“If it’s going to improve the value of the neighborhood, I’m all for it,” said Tyrone Garfield Sr., a 50-year resident of Cumming Street.
The properties are not only neighborhood eyesores, the mayor also says they are breeding grounds for crime. In the last 10 years, city officials say there have been 112 very serious crimes on Cumming Street alone.
“Repopulating neighborhoods, ensuring that empty lots don’t exist, are more eyes and ears for law enforcement and we expect a decrease in crime in these areas,” said Mayor Johnson after using a bulldozer to demolish the first part of the homes.
City officials also worry blighted homes decrease the property value of homes that are habitable and in good condition. In addition to building 3 new homes, the city also plans to renovate three others and work with homeowners to buy and fix more.
The city hopes to use 10 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) dollars to buy 10,000 more homes throughout the city in the next ten years.
“[Blighted homes] are dragging down the values of homes… that have a property in good condition. So some of these homeowners have lost as much as 40 percent of the value of their house,” said Martin Fretty, the director of Savannah’s Housing and Neighborhood Department.
A home nearby was demolished last year and rebuilt as a part of the revitalization effort. It is now for sale. Modest-income buyers can purchase the home for around $150,000.
News three will have updates on the city’s progress.