In place since the 1960s, the flyover essentially cut off several neighborhoods from the larger community and was detrimental to Black-owned business district along the corridor, then known as West Broad Street.
“The number of buildings dramatically decreased, the number of businesses dramatically decreased and the number of residences dramatically decreased when that occurred,” fellow coalition co-chair Ellen Harris said, showing various maps of the area overtime.
Along with the potential for business and housing opportunities, the removal would also reclaim more than eight acres of developable land, restore 650 feet of linear feet fronting MLK Blvd. and restore 350 feet fronting Montgomery Street.
Harris said the exit ramp has long served as not only a physical barrier, but also a social, economic and psychological barrier for surrounding neighborhoods.
“What we found is, for example, property values to the north of the flyover remain consistently higher and vacancy rates remain consistently lower. And when you move south of the flyover rents go down, vacancy rates go up, and that's been proven over time,” she said.
United States Senator Raphael Warnock, who grew up in nearby Kayton Homes, has also expressed support of the removal.
In a December 2021 letter to United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Warnock said it’s a dream of his to see the community restored and invited Buttigieg to visit the flyover.
“While it can never be what it once was, we must support the efforts to redress historic wrongs and reconnect communities like the one I was raised in,” Warnock wrote.
Should the removal go forward the land would revert back to the city, and city council would ultimately have final say on any development. Several council members raised questions about what that potential development would look like and expressed concern for residents including those in Frazier and Kayton Homes.
Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier said that while not under the city’s purview, she wanted the process to be sensitive to the housing developments and would like to see economic opportunities created for the surrounding communities.
“We want to make sure that by time we get to make these decisions about what type of developments, we will have some type of community benefit agreement or some type of policies in place to make sure that not only developers benefit, the city benefits, but that the impacted residents benefit,” she said.
Katie Nussbaum is the city and county government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at email@example.com. Twitter: KnussSMN
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Group making renewed push to remove I-16 flyover presents case to Savannah City Council