Wednesday morning I had the nice opportunity to chat with students (mostly architectures majors) taking a class in “Writing About Place,” at the Savannah College of Art & Design, about the Letters from New Orleans book — and about this very project. It was an interesting discussion about MLKs in general, the various aspects of MLK the icon, what the street “means” in various places, and the history and current development of MLK in Savannah. (The interesting observations of course came from the students, who were from all over the place, and had things to say about wherever they were from in addition to their views about Savannah.)
As it happens, the classroom was itself on Savannah’s MLK. See above. Crites Hall apparently dates to 1905, and, as was pointed out to me when I asked, the building was at one time a dry-goods store (Frank & Co.) as the faded paint along the side makes clear.
The portion of MLK in Savannah that’s north of the so-called “I-16 flyover” is generally more developed than the southern section of the street. Apart from some SCAD buildings, other entities on this strip include several fast-food restaurants, and a couple of hotels. Plus, a few of the businesses that were mentioned in some of the recent local press coverage of development debates.
Wednesday night I stopped by the unveiling of the proposed “master plan” for downtown Savannah, which includes a section of MLK. Between that meeting and the related press coverage, a few bits of (reported & alleged) information. Those bits, plus a smattering of other photos, after the jump. More recent MLK shots, all from this northern stretch of the street, added to this Savannah MLK set.
My thanks to writer and SCAD professor James Edward Lough and his students for some good conversation.
* The process that culminated in the construction of the I-16 flyover went on for about ten years; a reported 150 merchants, many on then-West Broad/now-MLK petitioned against it. In the end, the tearing down of buildings involved meant the end of a train station built in 1899, as well as 650 feet of store front on West Broad, including several theaters. The area was, at the time, the locus of African-American business in the city.
* The movement to rename West Broad after Martin Luther King began in 1980. The vote to rename the street was on February 8, 1990.
* Concerted efforts to revitalize MLK and nearby Montgomery Street began in 1996. From 2000 to 2005, the real-estate value of commercial property in the area has risen from $79.5 million to $209.4 million. In 2006, 262 new jobs were created in the MLK-Montgomery Street Corrider.
* It appears to be a foregone conclusion that the I-16 flyover will be removed. The details are, as far as I can tell, very much still up in the air.
This place just opened, and looks pretty good. Bicycle Link. Savannah is big bike town.
North MLK, above and below.