Garden City seeks to build affordable housing on the site of the old school

This story is part of First City Progress, a weekly series on new developments in Savannah and the Coastal Empire. If there are any projects that interest you or that we have omitted, email Zoe at [email protected]

As the city experiences record growth and an increase in property values, Garden City is looking to turn 14 acres of land into affordable housing.

The municipal property is on the corner of 5th and Oak streets and is the former site of Haynes Elementary School. The school is demolished – all that’s left is a chain-link batting cage and a field surrounded by trees.

“We all know how the rents have gone up,” said Mayor Don Bethune. “And it is very difficult for people to find affordable housing.”

In Garden City, a town of 10,300 people just west of Savannah, home prices have risen 41% since last year, according to, bringing the average selling price to $ 220,000.

To combat rising prices (and the lack of affordable rental housing), Garden City Council approved a broker to initiate a contract proposal process for the city. The broker is responsible for seeking community feedback on the project and creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the city to find a developer for the project.

“Whether it’s affordable housing or senior housing,” Bethune said. “There is a need for it in Garden City. So we’re ready to see what we can do. ”

Garden City Mayor Don Bethune is recognized for his work with his city's housing team and Habitat for Humanity.

Garden City has been the epicenter of Chatham County’s growth with its population increasing over 17% since 2010, according to the US Census. And as more people need housing, the expansion of the Port of Savannah (and related business growth) has swallowed up much of the city’s available developable land.

“The sad thing about Garden City is that we don’t have a lot of properties where we can put residents,” Bethune said. “And we’re going to have to, I guess, think outside the box because most of the assets that are left are industrial.”

Garden City’s industrial growth has resulted in a shift in the population, Bethune explained. As ports develop and related businesses build warehouses and logistics companies, more and more employees come to Garden City during the day, but leave once 5 p.m.

A train passes on Priscilla D Thomas Way, blocking all access to the neighborhood as it passes.

“After working hours it’s very quiet there. But everything changes with more residential properties, because then the needs of the people are there, they have to be met,” Bethune said. “Whether it’s grocery stores or convenience stores, or whatever. So whenever you can increase the number of dwellings (dwellings) in a city, it is the backbone of the community.

According to Acting City Manager Scott Rubiter, the city is considering new high-density developments to bridge the affordable rental housing gap and is establishing an impact fee program for port-related businesses so that it can improve road works and roads. water treatment systems.

“We love growth, but you also have to be able to manage growth. And it all seems to be happening at the same time,” Rubiter said. “So for a city our size, sometimes it’s hard to put up with that.”

The process of building affordable housing is only just beginning, so check back to for updates.

Zoe covers growth and its impact on communities in the Savannah area. Find her at [email protected], @zoenicholson_ on Twitter and @zoenicholsonreporter on Instagram.

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