After a long and disruptive construction phase, the Perry Lane Hotel is now open in the heart of the Historic District.
The official address is 256 E. Perry St., but the hotel actually consists of two buildings generally bounded by Drayton Street, East McDonough Street, Floyd Street and East Perry Lane. I don’t know how many people will look for an entrance on Perry Lane itself, but they will be disappointed.
I was critical of the design for the Perry Lane Hotel before it went through the review process, but the finished structure has many fine elements and teaches some lessons in good urbanism. From a distance, the buildings don’t make much of an impression, but they become more welcoming the closer one gets to them.
The hotel’s south building is across Perry Lane from Drayton Tower, the imposing international style apartment building that fronts on Liberty Street, but the hotel has a smaller neighbor along Drayton Street.
Green Fire Pizza, which occupies a former service station, recently expanded its dining room after an adjacent business closed. The one-story restaurant with nice windows and ample patio creates some needed space around the new hotel complex.
The hotel’s north building extends all the way to Drayton Street, but it too has a smaller neighbor – the ever popular and always open Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet across McDonough Street.
At the sidewalk level, the north building’s Drayton Street façade is dominated by the hotel’s restaurant, Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market. There has been a lot of good buzz about the new spot, so I will be checking it out soon.
Some of our hotels degrade the pedestrian experience, but the ground floor of the Perry Lane Hotel includes large windows, changes in texture, interesting angles and multiple entrances. The general friendliness of the building could encourage more pedestrian traffic between the Bull Street and Abercorn Street corridors.
Bricks, which will certainly discourage high speeds, have been used to pave the reconstructed block of Perry Street bisecting the hotel complex. The travel lane has been narrowed, which makes the street easier to walk across and will calm traffic even more.
The parking for the new hotel is underground and accessible off Floyd Street at the corner of Perry Lane. In other words, the vast majority of people walking or driving past the hotel will never notice any parking facility at all.
The underground parking was an expensive proposition and disrupted commerce in the area for many months, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Whenever possible, we need to avoid using available land for above ground, off-street parking, like the new garage that will be built amidst historic homes as part of Starland Village in the Thomas Square neighborhood.
Another option is to concentrate off-street parking in the center of large new developments.
Sure, most readers of this column would probably rather see multi-family housing rather than another hotel, but the Perry Lane Hotel seems like a worthy addition to Savannah’s urban landscape.
Will slower months lure more locals downtown?
With the end of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s spring quarter, thousands of downtown area residents are gone for the summer. My neighborhood south of Forsyth Park was dotted with rented moving trucks last week, and the streets will be a lot quieter until September.
For locals who are stressed by the current bustle of downtown, the college’s lighter summer schedule might present a reprieve, but the summer slowdown can be tough for many area businesses, especially locally owned ones that are not part of larger chains.
Many downtown businesses would benefit from a resurgence in local patronage this summer, but I don’t know if that will happen. As I have noted here before, many residents have soured on going downtown, in part because of higher costs and extended enforcement of meters for on-street parking in much of the Historic District.
Other readers of this column say they have quit going downtown because they can’t find parking, which seems ironic for two reasons.
For one, the new parking rates and enforcement have had the effect of creating more available spaces on some blocks north of Liberty Street.
And on any given weekday, it can be quite easy to find parking just a short walk from major downtown destinations.
At 1:30 p.m. on a lovely Wednesday afternoon in mid-May, I counted 85 available metered spaces near Chatham and Pulaski squares on the blocks bounded by Liberty, Whitaker, Gaston and Tattnall streets.
The unused capacity in many parts of downtown runs counter to the conventional wisdom that parking is impossible to find and that we have reached a point of tourism saturation.
It will be interesting to see how SCAD’s summer break impacts parking demand.
City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.