Victorian Neighborhood named one of nation’s greatest neighborhoods

Savannah leaders on Friday presented the Victorian Neighborhoods Association with certificates from the American Planning Association declaring the area one of the nation’s 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2014.

During a ceremony at Forsyth Park, which sits between the East and West Victorian neighborhoods, APA Board Member Shedrick Coleman said the neighborhood features unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders, and planners.

“Wherever I travel throughout the country, people always tell me Savannah is at the top of their list, and it is because of places like the Victorian Neighborhoods,” said Coleman, also Chairman of the Chatham Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Victorian Neighborhoods Association President Maurice Norman said the award is a testament to the residents who live and work in the neighborhood.

“We are all aware of the charm and uniqueness of the Victorian Neighborhoods, but now others across the country will as well,” he said. “We must all continue to work together to maintain that perfect balance to keep this place the great neighborhood that it is today.”

The Victorian Neighborhoods spread across City Council districts represented by Alderman Van R. Johnson II and Alderwoman Mary Osborne, both of whom helped present the award on Friday. They recognized the collaborative efforts to restore and develop the neighborhood, including partnerships among the City, residents and organizations such as the Historic Savannah Foundation, the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Savannah Tree Foundation, the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, SCAD and others.

“We’re blessed that much of the District’s architectural fabric has been preserved … thanks to the involvement of these organizations and the committed property owners who have restored, renovated, designed and built the remarkable homes and businesses in the Victorian District,” said Savannah Community Planning and Development Director Kerri Reid.

Savannah has been honored in the past by the APA for having one of the Top 10 Great Public Spaces (Savannah’s squares) and Top 10 Great Public Streets (Bull Street), but this is the first time the City has received a Great Neighborhood award.

Below is a list of the 2014 American Planning Association’s Great Neighborhood award winners:

Immediately south of Savannah, Georgia’s National Landmark Historic District is its Victorian District, a downtown neighborhood developed in the second half of the 19th century as a streetcar suburb of the original city. Designed in a compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development pattern with a modified ward structure and street grid, the Victorian District’s short city blocks and mix of residential and commercial establishments and parks make it one of Savannah’s most walkable neighborhoods. Approximately 13 million business and recreational travelers come to Savannah each year, the majority of whom visit the Victorian District to admire its homes, architecture and 30-acre Forsyth Park, which has been central to the Victorian District’s social and cultural fabric since its creation in the mid-19th century. For locals and tourists the park is a hub of social interaction, including concerts, recreation, sports clubs and teams, and weekly farmer’s markets.

Adams Morgan is a vibrant neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., known for its historic row houses, lively nightlife and cultural diversity. The international shops, restaurants, annual festivals, weekly farmers markets and nightlife draw visitors from all over the District and its suburbs, particularly on weekends. The neighborhood is incredibly pedestrian and bicycle friendly, particularly with the completion of the Streetscape Project in 2012, a 17-month, $6.8 million project which upgraded public spaces and infrastructure, widened sidewalks for pedestrians, added shared bike lanes, planted 59 new trees, installed 71 new bike racks, installed new outdoor globe lighting, improved pedestrian crosswalks for safety and made other critical infrastructure improvements. Adams Morgan contains approximately 700 historic properties, and the D.C. Office of Planning’s Comprehensive Plan in 2006 reiterated the District’s commitment to protecting the neighborhood’s defining row house fabric and architectural character.

Home to three historic districts, Arbor Hill in Albany, New York has a number of historic buildings scattered throughout its hill-top neighborhood, including structures from the war hero Henry Johnson and the Stephen and Harriet Myers House for the Underground Railroad. Arbor Hill served as the home for laborers involved in the construction of the Erie Canal and later in the 19th Century, wealthy business owners from the lumber industry occupied its corridors. The interest and dedication to the neighborhood’s revitalization took root with the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Plan in 2003, which helped drive $77.5 million in funding to revitalize the community. This has included 200 new or rehabbed housing units, 79,000 square feet of new retail and community service spaces, an established Neighborhood Association and new and improved parks. Over the past two years, the King building was redeveloped into office space for the Albany County Historical Association and a partnership was formed between Albany Housing Authority, the City of Albany, and the Albany Barn, which redeveloped the former St. Joseph’s Academy building into the Academy Lofts which feature 22 low-cost live/work residences for artists, and 13,500 square feet of multi-tenant creative arts incubator space, which includes rehearsal space, a dance studio, and digital media lab.

The 112-block Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, features a European-vibe that includes sidewalk cafes, restaurants, boutiques, museums, and popular visitor attractions between Forest Park and the University of St. Louis. The neighborhood employs more than double its 14,000 residents on a daily basis, and active neighborhood groups draw tens of thousands of visitors through annual events including the Central West End Halloween Party (31st Anniversary) and St. Nicholas’ Greek Festival (97th Anniversary). The engaged community leadership is also pursuing alternative transportation options for the neighborhood to further its status as a car-optional neighborhood, including a Bus Rapid Transit line, a streetcar line, and an additional proposed MetroLink light rail stop.

Fields Corner in Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, is home to a large Vietnamese-American population that influences the array of cultural shops and restaurants along its commercial corridor. Community organizations have developed affordable housing, commercial spaces and a community center for cultural events, providing support networks for residents. One organization, Fields Corner Main Street, promotes activities to support the neighborhood, including storefront improvements and streetscape beautification projects, while providing tools and assistance to local merchants, and recruiting and marketing new and existing businesses into the neighborhood. After four years of planning and community meetings, Fields Corner underwent a multi-million dollar facelift in 2010, part of the Dorchester Avenue Project led by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The upgrades included a more attractive streetscape, new crosswalks, wider sidewalks, new bike lanes and racks, new trash receptacles, solar-powered trash compactors, tree planting, energy efficient lighting and many other improvements. A major focus of the project was Hero Square, built to create a larger plaza area with seating and landscaping upgrades.

The Fan, a neighborhood adjacent to downtown Richmond, Virginia with one of the largest collections of intact Victorian homes from the early 20th Century, gets its name from the way certain streets physically fan westward from Monroe Park to the Boulevard. Although it was untouched by the Civil War, few houses from that time period remain. The variety of architectural styles that can be found throughout the neighborhood today include Italianate, Richardson Romanesque, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, the Bungalow, American Foursquare, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial and Art Deco. The Fan began rapidly developing in the late 19th Century as a result of the growth of the middle class. Construction began on a streetcar line connecting the neighborhood to downtown Richmond, and by 1930, the Fan had been transformed into the distinctive character seen today. The neighborhood features three triangular parks of increasing size: Howitzer Park, Lombardy Park and Meadow Park, and The Fan District Association organizes regular events with community participation including a Holiday House Tour, Historic Garden Week, and Winter Carnival.

The self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe,” Fremont in Seattle, Washington, is a 215-acre urban village located along the canal that links Lake Union to Salmon Bay. The neighborhood supports maritime and local industrial activities and maintains a distinct identity through its diverse range of local entrepreneurs. Fremont residents have nurtured a vibrant artistic atmosphere, perhaps most evident by the annual Solstice parade, a gathering of streaking, body-painted, costumed bicycle riders. Fremont is also home to tech-intensive tenants such as Adobe, Google and Tableau, as well as the original Red Hook Brewery. Fremont’s history dates back to the turn of the century, but its current vibe stems from the influx of students, bohemians and artists during the 1960s. The Fremont Neighborhood Plan was developed in 1999 to improve the neighborhood’s character as it grows, including concepts such as a Mosaic urban design strategy, public view protection, street traffic safety measures and greater public involvement in future developments.

The eclectic mix of architecture in the two historic neighborhoods that comprise Greater Belhaven stems from the early 20th century, when wealthy business owners built mansions and encouraged their employees and civic servants to build cottages and bungalows nearby, often offering personal financial assistance. A wide variety of architectural styles are found across the neighborhood. Residents include celebrated writers, artists, and musicians, all of whom are lured to the neighborhood by quiet ambiance, diverse architecture and lovely green spaces. Greater Belhaven became the first neighborhood in Jackson to tackle comprehensive rezoning since 1974, which resulted in a mixed-use district that features fewer curb-cuts, wider sidewalks and heavily landscaped parking lots. The Greater Belhaven Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, making it the largest historic district in Mississippi with 1,306 contributing structures. Current efforts in Belhaven include the Fortification Street Project, a road diet that will reduce the number of travel lanes from four to three to allow for five foot sidewalks, decorative lighting and a planting strip. Click here to learn more.

La Alma/Lincoln Park in Denver, Colorado, is a mixed-use neighborhood at the heart of Denver well-known for its Hispanic and Latino heritage. Poverty and crime rates plagued the neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s before a number of forces combined to transform the neighborhood back to its previous glory. The Santa Fe Arts District, home to many eclectic art businesses has helped transform the neighborhood, as has its transit options, parks, and a broad range of cultural and public facilities. La Alma Recreational Pool was reconstructed in 2012 with a new regional aquatic facility and pool house, and The Santa Fe and Kalamath Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossing Study in 2013 helped identify implementable solutions within the neighborhood. The rebirth of the South Lincoln Park Homes, now known as Mariposa, will offer 270 public housing units on 15.1 acres, creating an energized transit community with a spectrum of housing options in close proximity to downtown.

Uptown in Oakland, California, has experienced significant revitalization over the last 15 years. Already home to numerous historic performance venues, the neighborhood has seen many underutilized lots transform into an arts and entertainment district. Perhaps most momentous is the Uptown Residential Development, a $253 million mixed-use development with retail space, 1,200 mixed-income apartments and student housing on a 14-acre former parking lot. A 25,000 square-foot public park is located at the center of the project and now serves as the focal point of the neighborhood. The former Oakland Redevelopment Agency (ORA) was central to the neighborhood’s rebirth, forming public/private partnerships for the Uptown Area Residential Project and leading the restoration of the Fox Theater. Today, thanks to the collaboration of 40 local galleries, artists and mixed-use art spaces, Uptown is also home to monthly cultural events, including the Oakland Art Murmur First Friday Art Gallery Walk, which draws crowds of 20,000 to the neighborhood.

For more information about these neighborhoods, as well as APA’s top 10 Great Streets and top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2014 and previous years, visit The American Planning Association is an independent, not- for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.