Exciting development plan for former Backus dealership

Exciting development plan for former Backus dealership

There’s a Metropolitan Planning Commission agenda item for today that’s sure to draw some attention.

And that development plan is going to be an interesting test case to see if various city, county and state agencies can work together to boost investment and job growth.

The MPC will look at the general development plan for 1801 East Victory Drive, the old Backus Cadillac property. MPC staff is recommending approval of the plan, assuming five conditions can be met.

I’ll say off the bat that I had been skeptical of the prospect for significant commercial development on the site because of poor access for westbound vehicles.

Yes, the property is a highly visible one, but Truman Parkway traffic would have to exit, drive past the property, and then execute a cumbersome U-turn.

The developers have boldly dealt with that concern by accumulating a number of parcels west of the Backus property, all the way over to the former Burger King at Dixie Avenue.

An existing median cut on Victory Drive near Limerick Street would be eliminated. A median cut closer to the Truman for access to the shopping center on the north side of Victory would be added. So would a left turn lane for westbound traffic on Victory approaching Dixie Avenue.

A traffic signal would be added at the Dixie intersection to accommodate westbound drivers who want easy access to the development. Eastbound drivers could enter and exit directly off Victory.

Victory Drive is a state road, so that means the Georgia Department of Transportation would be involved.

Other things have to happen, too.

Certain public rights-of-way would have to be vacated by the city of Savannah. That includes closing a portion of Limerick Street.

The MPC would have to grant six variances. Four of those variances involve setbacks, and one involves driving-aisle width in the parking lot. The final variance would allow a one percent increase in the number of allowable parking spaces for compact cars.

There are a lot of conditions here, but all of them seem more than reasonable to me at this early stage in the public process.

The site has long been rumored as a future home for Whole Foods Market, but the MPC staff report mentions only a “grocery anchor” as the major tenant for a new 35,000 square-foot structure. There would also be about 25,000 square feet of additional retail space.

A spokesman for the developer said Monday he couldn’t discuss potential tenants.

It’s obviously worth noting, however, that the owner listed on the development plan, S.J. Collins Enterprises, has recently completed a Whole Foods in Charlottesville and is developing markets in Virginia Beach and Tallahassee.

By Bill Dawers of Savannah Morning News