This Place Matters: A Campaign to Continue Preserving Savannah
This Place Matters:
The Campaign to Continue Preserving Savannah
…is a $1.5 million drive to save endangered historic properties and give HSF the tools it needs to lead the preservation movement in Savannah and Chatham County into the 21st century.
Savannah is the most beautiful and well-preserved city in America. How did it come to be this way? Not by accident. It’s a result of strategic efforts by determined preservationists who toiled for decades. Visionaries who saw something underneath the grit and blight…stunning historic architecture which distinguishes Savannah, GA from Anyplace, U.S.A.
The organization that created that vision and spearheaded the local preservation movement for more than half a century is Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF).
Have you ever considered what Savannah would look like if HSF had never sprung into action to save the Davenport House…and continued its preservation efforts over the last five decades?
Though successful and nationally recognized for its work, HSF is not satisfied with the status quo. This campaign is about responding to stated needs from the community and expanding and deepening HSF’s impact in Savannah.
NEEDS AND EXPECTED IMPACTS OF THIS PLACE MATTERS
- To recapitalize the Revolving Fund to save endangered historic properties and curb blight
- To increase HSF’s Operating Endowment and solidify its financial base
- To restore portions of the Davenport House and more fully use the Kennedy Pharmacy to engage people in the full preservation story of Savannah
REVOLVING FUNDThe Landmark District is Savannah’s most acclaimed and visited historic district, but there are at least a dozen other historic districts also worthy of protection and investment. There is a relationship between downtown and surrounding neighborhoods…so as one goes…so goes the other. Protecting the Victorian District, Beach Institute, Thomas Square, Eastside and Cuyler-Brownville helps ensure the perimeter health of the Landmark District. Preservation brings stability to property values, reduces crime, increases the city’s tax base and engenders pride in one’s community.
How do we do that in the 21st century?
As times change, so HSF must change. We are changing the way our Revolving Fund does business because we need to adjust to different market circumstances. Instead of buying properties and holding them indefinitely (with all the associated carrying costs), we plan to use options, grants and easements to assist with basic rehabilitation and retain control of those properties through the use of protective easements.
Through more innovative and flexible use of our Revolving Fund, we will invest in a blighted property by making repairs, weatherizing and stabilizing it to bring it into code compliance and remove the imminent threat of demolition by the City. In exchange, we will place a protective easement on the property. The easement gives HSF the authority to review and approve any changes to the exterior of the property. In sum, after we qualify owners and make repairs, we will place a blanket of protection on the property in the form of an easement—thus protecting it without the burdening HSF with long-term ownership. We estimate an average investment of $10k -15k per property to stabilize and ready it for sale and/or rehabilitation. In this new model and with a fully capitalized Revolving Fund, we can improve more historic properties in a shorter amount of time and not shackle this organization into holding properties for years.
HSF operates with a balanced budget each fiscal year, but if we do not strive for more or remain stuck on a plateau, we will be self-serving and become irrelevant.
A strong capital endowment provides two vital elements of any successful and sustainable non-profit organization: 1) a reserve or cushion to allow the organization to fully operate in difficult economic times; and 2) the necessary venture capital to expand operations and be innovative in tackling new challenges. HSF’s current endowment is inadequate to do both. It has been helpful in getting us through the current economic doldrums, but it affords no seed money for innovation or expansion. HSF needs to increase its existing endowment to more than $2 million to enable it to better effect its mission and achieve breakthroughs in preservation.
DAVENPORT HOUSE AND KENNEDY PHARMACY
The Davenport House is where preservation began in Savannah in 1955…and it’s time to make some improvements to the grand old building. We plan to restore the attic and ground floor to more fully interpret the building and more accurately depict the African-American experience in the 19th century and tenant life in 20th century urban Savannah. The top floor (currently used for storage) will become a visual spectacle of the building’s survival and depict life of a 20th century tenant. The ground floor (which currently houses the gift shop and staff offices) will be interpreted for its original use as a kitchen and utilitarian spaces of the household. Eventually, the gift shop will be relocated to the Kennedy Pharmacy. Moving the gift shop to the Kennedy Pharmacy expands HSF’s “campus” and gives the Davenport House retail frontage on Broughton Street which will encourage additional walk-in traffic through this higher profile space. The Kennedy Pharmacy will become the portal to the preservation experience in Savannah where visitors can be oriented, buy tickets to tour the Davenport House and purchase gifts. The upper floor of the Kennedy Pharmacy will be converted from residential space to office space to better serve the growing needs of the Davenport House staff and volunteers. To achieve these goals, we need professional consultants in museum planning and historic building restoration.
NOW IS THE TIME!
A capital campaign of this scope and magnitude has never been undertaken by HSF. But our leadership understands the need to do so now. The HSF Board of Trustees fully supports this campaign, and we have 100% participation in giving and securing meaningful gifts. HSF’s professional staff is ready to manage this campaign while tending to its day-to-day responsibilities. The campaign has been under careful study for nearly a year, and we are confident that the timing is perfect:
- Foreclosed, vacant and blighted properties are at an all-time high and few banks are lending money for rehabilitation projects, so HSF needs to seize the opportunity to save endangered historic properties in a way that produces results without creating long-term debt;
- HSF has solid and stable leadership among its Board and Staff, and it is meeting the goals and objectives of its 4-year strategic plan;
- HSF and the Davenport House have never worked more closely or harmoniously in collaborating to achieve their shared goals of preservation and education, so expanding the interpretive plan of the Davenport House and more fully utilizing the Kennedy Pharmacy as the ‘front door’ to tell the preservation story of Savannah and HSF is the right thing to do; and
- HSF has the drive to fully commit to achieving the goals of this capital campaign.
The benefits of a successful campaign will yield several important results: 1) endangered historic properties will be saved and blight will be curbed; 2) HSF’s operating endowment will increase so it can better meet the needs of a dynamic organization that is expanding its educational and outreach programs in the community; and 3) the Davenport House and Kennedy Pharmacy will be used to their fullest potential to educate and entertain visitors and engage them in Savannah’s preservation story.
|Revolving Fund||$ 1,000,000|
|Operating Endowment||$ 250,000|
|Davenport House and Kennedy Pharmacy||$ 250,000|
|CAMPAIGN TOTAL||$ 1,500,000|