The challenge of balancing growth and preservation
A city's future depends on its citizens' mindsets, Adams believes. This mindset seems to be one that values the beauty of a city and understands the need to complement development with sensitivity to aesthetic value, as well as appreciating the economic value of aesthetics. This balance poses a challenge to Savannans trying to preserve their history as well as ensure Savannah's economic security.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Floyd Adams, August 16, 2002. Interview R-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
Do you have any sort of final thoughts that you'd like to
add, just about anything that we've been talking about either
West Broad or the redevelopment of the cityߞ
FLOYD ADAMS, JR.
The biggest thing that people have to realize, West Broad Street was
West Broad Street. I was over to the Hilton the other day about the
Jewish veterans, and a lot of people did their training here before they
went on to the Eleventh Airborne, did their training here out at Fort
Stewart and Hunter, and they said this city has really changed. But from
an African-American perspective, people have to realize that West Broad
Street will never be what it used to be and accept that fact, and we
need to move forward with developing new approaches to dealing with West
The major thing that people are saying you've got two separate
developments because of the overpass going across. Well, they go to
Chicago, they got to New York, they've got EL trains running
down in the middle of the street and those things, and that
doesn't impede development. It's a mindset. So
you've got to get rid of that mindset like I told people, if
you come down, the traffic on West Broad Street
could not handle the traffic coming off of I-16. That was put there by
design so that the traffic could come in and go down Montgomery Street
and come on downtown. You have an exit there only for MLK. So you can
develop on the right or the left, and it's still West Broad
or MLK. So don't get any concept of either north or south.
It's still West Broad Street and deal with it and move
forward what we should've had. And that's why I
said with the historic district, we should've had a sign
ordinance similar to Hilton Head or something that will take the Burger
King signs or the Wendy's signs or the Popeye signs down to
make them more conforming to the street than anything else so businesses
could blend in. But you can't build a condominium and open up
your window and look out and all you see is a Burger King sign or cars
coming down the highway. So that would impede, it depends on the mindset
of people. If you're coming from New York or Washington,
you're going to listen to sirens going all night, and
you're going to adjust to that fact. Or walk out and you look
down to another building or whatever, you're not going to be
able to look out and see the river or look out and see a beach or
something. You're going to look at a Burger King or a
Wendy's. So that is the concept that people have to realize
for the future of the development of West Broad Street.
Now further down, as I say, had people had the vision to keep the row of
businesses intact or the churches intact and build behind, then we would
be in good shape. But they didn't have that insight.
You're not going to be able to rebuild that. So
you're just going to have to deal with it and adjust and
future development has to be conforming to what's there and
enhance it and go forward. But it's a mindset of change.
But Savannah's a beautiful place. I love it dearly.
I'm going to do everything in my power to make certain that
matters continues in that vein and deal with it. But reeducating the
people to that and you also have to realize too that people may take
this a little difficult, but people in my generation are dying off.
People in my father's generation are already died off. So the
younger generations don't know anything more than what they
can see now other than if they go into a history book and look at it. So
it's all going to be the perception within
everybody's mind of how it should look at what
it's going to be. That's going to be, historians
like this stuff going to have to keep the dream alive or the image alive
in people's mind that this is how our forefather's
lived. They didn't have the modern conveniences so they built
homes to make it convenient for them with a big window so the breeze
could come from the north, east, west and whatever
so you would get a little bit of a cool. The modern day concept of
building a house is not conforming because of the air conditioning or
whatever. There's a rationale behind all this stuff. They
need to understand that.
One of the things I had the opportunity right when I was elected mayor to
go to Europe. Riding from the airport in London from the airport to
downtown London on the train you look out you can see a duplicate of
Savannah, Georgia almost, a duplicate with the row houses and everything
else. I said well, hell even those big architects stole the idea from
over here and brought it over there. So you have to look at it from that
perspective. Those who don't have the ability to travel and
see little things, it's a difference. It all depends on the
perception. Give you a classic example. We bought the building on
Abercorn and Broughton Street with the old bank. We wanted to change the
façade to make it more blendable to the others that were there. But our
historic review board turned us down because the architect that drew it
said that was a pre-1960 avant garde architecture.
So the historic review board upheld that because it's
avant-garde architecture, but other people say it's horrible,
take it down. So we left it the way it was. Save us some money, but we
left it the way, we did some internal stuff and the same thing on
Drayton Street, Drayton and Liberty. The Drake Towers, all that glass.
Some people would love for a hurricane to knock it down. But then
it's a classic example of the architecture of that day. Any
building in Chatham County, well any building within the city limits of
Savannah, fifty years or older is considered historic. So
you've got so much avant-garde stuff emerging that was built
in the '60s getting close that fifty year and will be
considered historical soon. So you're in a Catch-22
situation. So it's all the conception of people's
mind and how they deal with it.
Who knows in fifty years that may make a lot of sense when people come
to Savannah to see the avant-garde.
FLOYD ADAMS, JR.
Avant garde architecture. Go down like South Beach in Miami. So
it's a part of the trend setting situation. But we have to
develop something if we're going to maintain our tourism
industry the way it is we have to develop something for the children,
family orientation and the like. MLK-West Broad could be done.