In the ongoing process of forcing a “master” plan for the area around the proposed new Savannah Civic Arena, something important is missing: the real engagement of the world’s greatest experts on what is and isn’t lacking in the area now. The choice of a “Survey Monkey” questionnaire that ignores asking what might be good about the existing neighborhood pre-supposes that the only needs could be recreational or leisurely. The planning bias is plainly obvious. The existing village must not matter to them, and the plan is for a municipal playground, not a community.
Desperate needs for better nutrition, education, entrepreneurship, employment or even just shade don’t get included in the survey. The biggest tell is what has carefully been marginalized: the people that live here, and they are the real experts. Inviting them to come to general public meetings with free barbecue, temporary playgrounds and the opportunity to put little stickers on pictures of park amenities is no substitute for real study and engagement.
Jane Jacobs believed that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Prediction: Bringing in big city planners from Atlanta, a metropolis entirely dependent on auto-mobility, with only a few token locals, to plan a community improvement in Savannah may result in a plan for a giant surface parking lot with almost nothing sustainable for the neighboring community.
As an alternative, perhaps we could make the effort to look at what is good and proven about Carver Village, Springfield Terrace and Brickyard, and then ask their resident experts to help create something for everybody, not just the people that will come to play.
We could start by dumping the name Canal District. We need a plan for making a greater village instead, with a balance of living, working, playing, growing and raising generations of healthy children. Let’s stop “master” planning and start over now with our own people. It takes a village...