There is a current West Elm hotel project for Drayton Street coming before City Council. The hotel is asking for an additional story and that is causing some concern for downtown residences, and people in general. I think the thing that concerns people more than the height, is the design of the building itself. It’s not good and people know it, they want better.
Personally, I think the height may be appropriate given the location and how the building interacts with the Park across the street. For me, it is not a height or scale problem, but a design problem. The proposed building is really a poor design in materials and composition, and people know that. It says nothing about Savannah, nor is it iconic Modernist design work either. It is bland, generic wallpaper on a box. Locals know good architecture, even if they can not articulate it all the time.
I’d like to contrast the current design with a project currently under construction in Charleston. This is a project designed to fit in with the architecture of Charleston, but not copy it. The materials and proportions are of the same DNA pallet, but skillfully composed. It too faces a major public park, Marion Square in this case. It had a long design process, but the people of Charleston demanded a great building on a great public space, and they got it.
Savannah needs to demand great buildings again, especially when they are on a public square or park. This city is special and does not need to accept average or poor projects. If the approval process allows this level of design to pass through the system, then that system really needs to be questioned until the results deliver the level of design excellence that Charleston has been able to pull off. The people here know the difference, they just need the system here to know the difference.