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Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 7:38am

'Riverwalk To Nowhere' Almost Finished

Updated: 5 years ago.
The Savannah waterfront attracts millions of tourists. A waterfront extention is almost finished, but leads only to a barren construction site. (photo by Orlando Montoya)

The next few months could bring the completion of a $10 million extension of the Savannah riverwalk, but the billion-dollar residential and retail development that goes with it is still nowhere to be seen.

The city is paying for the riverwalk extension mostly with state funds.

The larger retail and residential project, however, is privately financed. And therein lies a problem. The economy has stalled construction.

The private project, called Savannah River Landing, was touted in national newspapers because developers plan to extend the historic town plan, a mix of homes and businesses centered around tree-filled and neatly organized squares, beyond the boundaries of the historic district.

Savannah is the first city in the nation planned in such a way.

Now, that's delayed. A company spokesman wouldn't speculate on when "vertical construction" would begin, but did deny rumors that the project was in receivership.

"We are re-working the financing," said Steven Johnson, a spokesman for Ambling Corp., the developer. "But we're still here and we still believe in the viability of this project."

Likewise, a city of Savannah spokesman said that the Savannah River Landing is going forward, albeit at a delayed pace.

"It could be two years or it could be ten years," said Bret Bell, the city spokesman. "We're not concerned about the time frame, as long as it's developed."

The developer has installed about $20 million worth of pipes, streets and other infrastructure at the site.

Officials call the site "job-ready."

Meanwhile, in the next few months, the city is expected to finish work on the riverwalk extension.

Visitors then will be able to walk down to access, on the one side, about 2,000 feet of previously unaccessable waterfront, with a floating dock; and on the other side, nothing.

"Ambling will probably put in a fence to keep people from going onto the construction site," said Bell.

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