The City of Savannah's defense has been undercut in the wake of yesterday's news that the National Historic Landmark District was downgraded to "Threatened" status
by the National Park Service due to increased development and disturbance of the original town plan.
In response to that new National Park Service assessment, completed recently and unveiled by local preservation agencies yesterday, the City issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying:
"As cited in this report, the status of Savannah’s Landmark District has not changed. It was designated as 'Priority 1 Threatened' when it was last assessed in 2002, and it is recommended in this report to remain at “Priority 1 Threatened,'" a City spokesperson told the media on Wednesday, just hours after the news broke.
"For the past 15 years the City has been working with local stakeholders to address most of the concerns noted in the report, with the goal of striking a balance between preservation, development, tourism and quality of life," the City said.
However, in an email obtained by Connect Savannah, the National Park Service confirms that Savannah's Landmark District designation was taken off the watch list in 2006.
In 2006 the district was moved to 'Satisfactory' when a proposed bus terminal was moved outside the boundary. Since 2006 the condition has not changed," writes Cynthia Walton, National Historic Landmarks Program Manager with the National Park Service's Southeast Region.
This development reinforces concerns that developments downtown since then, especially hotels, have indeed directly put Savannah's cherished Landmark District in danger, contrary to the City's position that such development had not affected the designation.
There are three basic designations of a National Historic Landmark District:
• Satisfactory (Priority 3) indicates that there is no known current or potential threat to the landmark.
• Watch (Priority 2) indicates NHLs that face impending actions or circumstances that likely will cause a loss of integrity.
• Threatened (Priority 1) indicates NHLs that have suffered, or are in imminent danger of, a severe loss of integrity.
• Emergency indicates that recent catastrophic damage has occurred that requires immediate intervention.