IN WHAT is possibly the most symbolic moment of 2020 — the year it feels like the whole world is ending — the beloved "Savannah Globe" is nearing what might be its own apocalypse.
Southside Savannah has precious few historic landmarks to call its own. One of them, the famous Globe at DeRenne and White Bluff, is slated to be replaced by a convenience store if a new development plan continues to advance.
Whether or not the Globe will be demolished, or simply relocated, has yet to be specifically determined.
The Globe was built in the mid-1950s as a spherical natural gas storage tank by the Savannah Gas Company. On the brilliant PR advice of none other than billboard magnate R.E. Turner — Ted Turner’s father — the Globe was soon painted to bear a map of the earth.
When it was built, most of Chatham County south of DeRenne was semi-rural, or even pure pastureland, including my family’s old dairy farm a few miles to the south of the Globe site.
The Globe, quite simply, is one of the oldest structures still standing in Savannah south of DeRenne. But it has no level of historic protection.
It has undergone at least two new paint jobs over the decades, including one flub that had to be redone, where Hurricane Floyd was portrayed heading for Savannah — except spinning clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise as hurricanes actually do.
In the early 2000s it was acquired by a mortgage company and the current advertising signage was added – with the continents still intact.
Unless something changes soon, the earth will come to an end, set to be removed or demolished along with all adjacent buildings to make room for a Parker’s Kitchen convenience store/gas station and at least two food and beverage outlets.
The development plan was approved by the Metropolitan Planning Commission Sept. 1.
Stunningly, neither the plan nor any other documentation that I’ve seen even so much as mentions the Globe, much less discusses any way to save or relocate it.
At first glance, it seems shortsighted for Greg Parker, a local developer often rightly lauded for his business acumen, not to see the enormous PR and advertising value in keeping the Globe where it is, and incorporating it into the new design.
But to be fair, the Globe isn’t just a quirky bit of roadside Americana. As a brownfield and former chemical/industrial site, it could be considered an environmental hazard of sorts.
It’s possible that it isn’t even legal under federal and/or state environmental law to leave the former natural gas tank intact if there’s going to be new fuel tanks and food service equipment in the immediate vicinity, as the development plan envisions.
However, obviously you can build those things there if the tank is removed entirely, a not-insignificant process which itself will likely require an extensive abatement protocol regardless.
As news got out, outraged citizens started online petitions to try and save the landmark.
This past Monday, Parker’s responded to the controversy with a statement saying in part, “We are exploring the potential development of the site, but no decisions have been made at this time... We appreciate the community’s feedback and look forward to continuing to be a good community partner. At Parker’s, we’re incredibly proud to be headquartered in Savannah and remain deeply committed to giving back to the community we call home.”
As we go to press, a compromise was in the making, with Greg Parker agreed to gift the Globe to the City of Savannah if Parker's purchases the property.
What happens from there? Who knows?
Kudos to Mr. Parker for his pledge — which he is under no legal obligation to make — and I hope he, and the City, can follow through.
It all sounds crazy, but hey, this is our world we’re talking about. Let’s hope at least this one can be saved, somehow.