Reader submitted article to the Cape Charles Mirror. As Cape Charles continues to “renovate” with new structures in town, do these ugly, modern “Walgreen Wannabes” pose a threat to our inclusion in the historic registry?
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – The National Park Service recently released an Integrity and Condition Assessment of the Savannah National Historic Landmark District, conducted at the request of Historic Savannah Foundation.
The report recommends Savannah’s Historic District be placed on the “Threatened Priority 1 List.” This means the district has “suffered or is in imminent danger of a severe loss of integrity.” A district is moved to this list before becoming in danger of losing its National Historic Landmark listing.
A discussion with historic preservation specialists was held Wednesday to ask for the public’s input when it comes to revisions of the Historic District Ordinance.The Historic Savannah Foundation puts it like this: the Historic Landmark District just went for its check-up, and although the results aren’t the best, it can still be fixed.
One of the biggest proposed changes includes adding stories for non-historic large-scale developments. Developers can add a story, but they have to meet certain criteria. There were four sections of criteria, but the city is proposing three. In order to get an additional story, a developer must restore a historic street or lane, provide affordable housing, or include multiple uses on the ground floor.
The Director of Urban Planning and Historic Preservation says the Metropolitan Planning Commission has been working on these revisions for two years, and now, they want the community’s feedback.
“We anticipate incorporating the changes,” said Ellen Harris, Director of Preservation. “The Historic Review Board will be the body to determine whether or not that’s appropriate change, or if we need to tweak it. We’ll put together a final draft and send that to the city council for review and adoption.”
“The National Historic Landmark status is rare and coveted,” said Daniel Carey, President and CEO of Historic Savannah Foundation. “You earn that, and we don’t want to discard it.”
Daniel Carey is the President and CEO of the Savannah Historic Foundation. He says the assessment notes several factors which are threatening the city’s status, including losing the concept of James Oglethorpe’s Savannah Town Plan.
“The Oglethorpe Plan is of paramount importance, so anytime we can protect it, we should,” he said.
Oglethorpe’s plan was mainly based on our historic squares – the layout of the city. In the 1800’s, the city grew to include 24 squares, but Carey says some have been lost throughout the years.
“Notable intrusions include Highway 17 constructed down Montgomery Street; we lost Elbert and Liberty squares,” Carey said.
The city of Savannah is responding to the assessment. Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design for the city, says they take these reports seriously.
“The city has been working over the last few years to do positive things to counter that.”
In 2010, the city restored Ellis Square – one of the city’s lost squares. The city says they’re continuing to take steps to address the remaining concerns.
“We are looking at taking Montgomery and making it two-way from Liberty to Broughton, which is huge because it’s going to restore that historic grid pattern for the potential of the square being restored,” Lidy said.
Carey says the steps taken by the city gives him encouragement for what’s yet to come.
“We really need to take Oglethorpe’s plan because that’s our identity and that’s our calling card,” he said.
If you couldn’t make it to Wednesday’s meeting, you’ll have another opportunity next Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Julie Jones says
Reading this article about Savannah reminds me that in October of 2016 (or thereabouts), Cape Charles had a $25,000 grant for a consultant to evaluate our Historic District. From time to time, I wonder about what the consultant’s final report said. Has this report ever been released to the public? I think that the historic district status of any city or town lies in the hands of those entrusted with the responsibility of adhering to the standards set when the area receives its historic district designation. It does make me wonder about the stringency of our historic district standards when extraordinarily large “homes” are approved, or vinyl siding is permitted. Do you know the details of that 2016 consultant’s report, or would that have been addressing other kinds of issues? Thanks so much for sharing this; Savannah is a beautiful and very special place, and this should give us cause for concern here in Cape Charles.
David Gay says
What is happening in Savanah is an indication of what could happen to Cape Charles if we don’t take our National Historic status seriously. Cape Charles Historic District Review Board was established to protect the integrity of the district and ensure that we are eligible for restoration tax credits and grants.
Larry DiRe says
The Town received a grant in the total of $25,000 to provide a preservation workshop (held on October 29, 2016 in the Civic Center and provided by the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions) where the HDRB members and about a dozen community members attended. That workshop accounted for $7,000. The remaining $18,000 was for an update to the 1989 historic district survey. From that survey update all of that 2016\2017 data is posted on the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on their Virginia Cultural Resource Information System (V-CRIS) Here’s the website https://vcris.dhr.virginia.gov/vcris/MapViewer/Account/Logon?returnUrl=%2Fvcris%2FMapviewer%2F It is not the hardest, or the easiest site to navigate. Search by county (Northampton) and Historic District Name (Cape Charles Historic District) and the informational map opens with a blue dot on every historic register building in the district. Once you click on the dot an informational panel opens about that property. The Town received and still has for anyone’s review, all the 2016\2017 photographic data associated with each of the 552 sites listed in V-CRIS. This project was a survey update, which was not updated since 1989\1990. It was not an assessment of the district. Survey updates were reported to the HDRB, and the Town Council (page 8) http://capecharles.org/files/documents/agenda95601468060817045133b.pdf .
To understand what is happening in Savannah please see this link to the full National Park Service report. https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/DownloadFile/598884
Please feel free to contact me at 757-331-2036 with any questions, comments, or concerns.
Beach Jazz says
There’s modern, then there’s crappy. So crappy that you begin to miss the parking lot or hope for a tsunami. Not sure what kind of architectural review goes on there, but if you’re looking for Coney Island, you’re getting there. Nothing bad about a poor man’s jumbled beach rental paradise, but you’ll need to stop calling it Mayberry.