The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Tommy Linstroth, founder and president of Trident Sustainability Group, a Savannah-based consulting firm specializing in green building design, green construction, and LEED certification. Read on for Tommy’s reflection on his first decade (almost) in Savannah and where he plans to spend the next 90 years…
September 14th marks my eight-year anniversary in this fair city. While I still have 100+ more years and multiple generations before I’m considered a true Savannah-local, I am, like so many other transplants, at least considered local-esque, which ain’t half bad.
Seeing those magical dates come up (whether 1 year anniversary or 50) always leads me to some self-reflection, which actually started a few months prior. I’ve recently broken ground on a new house so I guess I’m committed to sticking around a few years longer, but I’ll tell you before making such a commitment, I spent some time looking back on my past eight years, and what the next eight might look like and why it would or wouldn’t be worthwhile to plan on sticking around.
It used to be I felt I needed to flee to Charleston or New York or Portland to get my culinary and retail therapy. The terrible economy the past couple years and rash of business closings didn’t help. But really thinking about it, local business is thriving. I was counting some of my favorite haunts lately, from locally owned newbies like Café Florie, a.lure, Sage, Leoci’s, the Distillery, Green Truck, Perc and Spare Time to regional newcomers like World of Beer (try getting a bar seat in there at 7 PM) to the stalwarts who survived through the tough past couple of years like Angel’s BBQ, Crystal Beer Parlor, Circa, Sapphire Grill, Local1110 and Cha Bella, and they are on par with anyone.
Broughton Street, while still featuring some notable vacancies, is packed with boutique shops that are pulling off great events like Fashion Night Out two weeks ago. Yeah, Dwyane Wade and Kanye West weren’t there (I guess the NYC folks called them first), but having Broughton closed off and seeing all the people down there on a Thursday night was a stark reminder of the types of offerings we have in our community.
On the national retailer front, we’ve seen an outburst of interest unparalleled in past years. Blick Art Supply is opened a few days ago and Kohl’s should be open within a few weeks. Dicks Sporting Goods is coming into our market soon. Whole Foods is slated to open in a year, and Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian yoga and sports apparel company once confined to the hallowed shopping areas of New York, San Francisco and Chicago, has opened a showroom on Liberty Street. These newcomers strengthen our other national brands such as Marc Jacobs (who many thought might not succeed), Fresh Market, and Williams Sonoma, none of which were here when my tenure began.
There have been some fundamental changes in the housing environment and overall cityscape as well. I’m not one to droll on about housing stats, but I can tell you what I see.
From the east to the west to the south, there’ve been significant improvements to large swaths of real estate. Sustainable Fellwood brought 330 new units to the site of Savannah’s first public housing project, transforming a vacant, derelict site into a hub of families and activity. A similar resurgence has transformed the old Strathmore Estates into hundreds of new apartment and single family homes in Savannah Gardens. In mid-town, SCAD’s Terrace residences reinvigorated an entire neighborhood and brought a flood of customers into the Habersham Village shops and restaurants.
I can’t eloquently enough describe the benefit the new Ellis Square has had on the City Market area. One West Victory is about to invigorate the Whitaker and Victory intersection, which has been vacant as long as I’ve been in Savannah.
Finally, the Housing Authority of Savannah is working through their Choice Neighborhood Initiative that will (hopefully) transform the entire East Savannah Gateway, bringing much-needed redevelopment and economic stimulation east on Liberty/Wheaton. Work has already begun with the demolition of Hitch Village, and the new efforts underway are going to redefine downtown Savannah’s eastern boarder.
Also on my mind in my reflection were cool new things like the Savannah Rock’N Roll Marathon, the Savannah Stopover, the Craft Brew Festival, the Forsyth Farmers Market – to the old – St Patty’s Day, the Savannah Music Festival, The Savannah Movie Festival, not to mention all the greatness of Forsyth Park, from lounging to tennis to all the festivals and events it hosts.
This isn’t a scientific analysis by any means. And everything hasn’t been rosy for the Savannah over the past eight years. These are just the transformations and advancements I’ve either witnessed or that are moving forward full steam ahead as we speak.
And my analysis is by no means inclusive – I could go on for pages trying to get everything I’ve witnessed down in words, so I focused on what I knew – where I eat/drink/shop, and where I reside.
Reflecting back is always a great exercise to help you appreciate where you are and how you got there. And let me tell you, when I had the discussion of whether we should stick around or jet for greener pastures, it was a pretty short one. I’m around for the long haul. There’s too much cool stuff going on, and I want to be a part of it.