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Urban planning is both a technical and political process that is concerned with the development and planning of land use, environment use and its protection. It also deals with the growth and functioning of urban cities and towns and development of infrastructures such as transport, communication and distribution networks. It is also primarily concerned with the planning of resources such as water and air. A few basic principles such as development densities, architecture, sustainability, planning, mission and goals of the urban development are crucial when it comes to urban planning.
Savannah is a coastal city in the state of Georgia that is separated from South Carolina by the Savannah River. It is a city with well-manicured parks, non-modern architecture with a historic district filled cobblestoned squares and parks. Most of the trees found in the district are oak trees covered with Spanish moss and at the centre of the district is the scenic landmark which is the Gothic Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The city is also known for the presence of horse-drawn carriages.
The initial urban planning of Savannah was done by Oglethorpe in the 1730’s. The Oglethorpe plan was seen to embrace all major themes of enlightenment from science, humanism and even the secular government and would have neither aristocracy nor slavery (Conzen, Michael P., pg 17). The plan also stood out because it embodied the social, military, environmental and philosophical needs of the citizens. The plan was seen to make unique use of squares that led to the city having a street pattern that creates a rhythm of strategically placed openings that gives the town its unique sense of space and solidity in the township.
The basic design unit for the town was the ward. Each ward consists of four residential blocks and four civic blocks arranged around a centre square. Each residential block had ten houses and had a square mile of land for farming. The original numbers of wards laid out in Savannah were six which are now twenty-four (Reps, John William, pg 247). The city, however, does have a modern street grid outside the historic district which also follows the original system of a right of way for gardens, farms and villages that make up the city of Savannah. The streets allowed uninterrupted movement in traffic and the internal streets were designed to be pedestrian friendly. To this day, Savannah retains much of the Oglethorpe original plan and by this has been a reason for increased tourism in the city.
The fact that Savannah still retains its historic, unique city plan is seen to have a negative impact on the neighbourhood in low-income households as gentrification has been rampant leading to displacement especially the low-income households. This can be attributed to the presence of the historical preservation movement encouraging people to return to historic districts. The refurbishing and refining of these houses are leading to an increase in the rent and property taxes of the very houses and thus increasing the rate of displacements for households that can’t seem to afford the high prices. Rehabilitation of the historic houses has led to a movement of high-income earners into these houses as they have ease of access to transport facilities and most end up being nearer their places of work. Rehabilitating and refurbishing the houses into their historic form has led to an increase of tourism in the area which has ended up helping to boost the economy of the town.
The neighbourhood has utilised the land space it has to accommodate ease of transport for both motorists and pedestrians by the strategically placed streets and inner streets. The availability of the kitchen gardens in the historic homes has also helped in the utilisation of land for subsistence agriculture and beautification purposes. The plan and design of the city will not change anytime soon, and this can be attributed to the presence of the Historic Preservation Movement tasked with the role of preserving the historic homes and refurbishing. The areas surrounding Savannah, however, are likely to change to mitigate the negative effects gentrification is having on the city (Levy, John M. , pg 24). There is a task force in place that is dealing with the planning of land use, zoning, affordable housing and development to revitalise and stimulate residents living in the vulnerable neighbourhoods of Savannah. This is also to reduce the negative effects that have been brought about by gentrification.
With the current planning regulations that require urban areas to be zoned, have affordable housing, economic development, education, training and redevelopment programs and economic land use Savannah will end up being a more favorable place to live as it will have integrated both the historic designs and planning and the metropolitan and urban development and planning designs. This will help retain the already existing tourism industry in the city as well as accommodate the low-income households who will not have to lose their houses due to high rent charges and property taxes that are imposed when the area turns to be a boom regarding investments.
Conzen, Michael P. “The study of urban form in the United States.” Urban Morphology 5.1 (2001): 3-14.
Levy, John M. Contemporary urban planning. Taylor & Francis, 2016.
Reps, John William. The making of urban America: A history of city planning in the United States. Princeton University Press, 1965.