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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd Adams, August 16, 2002. Interview R-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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

KIERAN TAYLOR 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 Broad Street. 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. KIERAN TAYLOR 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.