Inside the Deal

By Matthew Marin, Assoicate EditorSavannah, Ga.—The street patterns and six-square city plan of downtown Savannah were established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe. A fine example of urban planning, Savannah boasts one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the U.S. Now, downtown Savannah is undergoing its first major expansion in 150 years. Savannah River Landing is a 54-acre mixed-use community co-developed by Ambling Land & Resort and Ambling Development Partners, affiliates of Valdosta, Ga.-based Ambling Cos. The development will add 600 condominiums, 110 townhomes and 17 luxury riverfront estate homes to Savannah’s housing stock.Emulating the original blueprint for downtown, the master plan of Savannah River Landing extends the city into a series of additional “wards.” Christian Sottile, principal of Savannah-based Sottile and Sottile Urban Design, worked with the city and Ambling to develop a civic master plan. “Savannah has enjoyed an uninterrupted tradition of urbanism, so we have the opportunity to grow the city in a very authentic way,” he says. Savannah River Landing will feature pedestrian-friendly blocks. Six new traditional city squares will occupy a site that is as large as the original six-square city plan. “It’s a true mix of the old with the new,” says Beth Horner, vice president of marketing and communications for Ambling Cos. Inc. “Savannah is a very traditional city. This will be one of the most unique urban properties in the country.”The center of downtown was originally developed on the area’s highest land and is bordered by low-lying shoulders extending along the east and west sides of the city. The site of Savannah River Landing—rising on the eastern edge of the historic district, bordered by the Savannah River and President Street—was too low for development during Oglethorpe’s time, but modern technology has made it possible to raise the site’s grade. Ambling Cos. Inc. plans to transport more than 450,000 cubic yards of dirt (equivalent to approximately 50,000 dump truck loads) to the site. With an estimated total build-out cost of approximately $800 million, Savannah River Landing is being financed through several preferred lenders. Ambling declined to release the names of these financial sources as of press time. The development will expand the riverfront and river walk by nearly 2,000 feet, part of which will be funded by an $8-million investment from the state of Georgia. A riverfront plaza, public squares with live oak trees and street-level retail will help integrate the new construction with the historic downtown. Building heights will vary from four to 10 stories. Build-to lines and required minimum numbers of entrances will be designed for each block to create active street fronts. The plan provides public access to the waterfront, respects view corridors, improves circulation and creates small blocks to accommodate a wide range of uses and open spaces.Construction will be divided into several phases with the first phase beginning in the second quarter of 2008. Savannah River Landing will include 11 mid-rise buildings comprising 350,000 total square feet. In addition to approximately 1.6 million square feet of both office space and retail space, the project will contain a luxury hotel and Hyatt Place, a boutique hotel.Residential plans offer a wide range of living options, such as the riverfront estate homes. These multi-million-dollar properties facing the Savannah River will feature interior courtyards, carriage houses, balconies and premier waterfront views. The townhomes will be modeled after the historic homes found throughout the city. The condo units will range from loft-style floor plans to luxury penthouses. Sales for the condos and townhomes began in January.All of the homes are designed for residents to have panoramic views of the riverfront and public squares. Southern-style porches, rooftop terraces and rich architectural details such as iron rails and stately columns will tie these modern residences to Savannah’s past and “enhance the legacy of this historic city,” says Horner. “Savannah is enchanting; it leaves a lasting impression for anyone who has spent time in this city,” she adds. “Savannah River Landing will be true to the intangible ambiance of this special space.” To comment on this article, contact Diana Mosher at dmosher@multi-housingnews.com.