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NEWS: Join us for our closing event!

Savannah Smart Cities Closing Community Event: All are welcome!

Purpose: In this event, we will share new knowledge from a practitioner/ academic partnership in the City of Savannah on the topics of housing and social life in Savannah. We will share powerpoint presentations about our research, hear from a City of Savannah planner about what is new in the city, and have a roundtable discussion after lunch to discuss initiatives and needs.

Date + Time: Friday, August 11th, 9 AM -1:15 PM (networking and chatting roundtable session afterwards)

Location: Coastal Georgia Center, Main Auditorium, 305 Fahm St, Savannah, GA 31401 [map]

RSVP: We’d like to get a headcount for catering: please rsvp here. The event is free to participants.  

Who can attend: Any Savannah resident, practitioners from Georgia in city planning or in related positions.

Organizers: This event is sponsored by the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation


Event Program

8:30 AM: Pastries and coffee from Sentient Bean 

9:00 AM: Welcome & Opening Remarks: Why Planners Need Smart Cities
What urban planners can do depends on what dimensions of a city and its people can be measured. Currently, there are numerous quantitative measures available from Census and administrative data. Qualitative measures are more elusive. A few examples of quantitative and qualitative measures will be presented as a framework for the Savannah’s Smart Communities projects to be presented today.

9:15 AM: Words from Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, Project Sponsor
The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (PIN) is a public-private partnership that began in 2020 via an initiative by Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. The project runs pilot programs across Georgia in places like Metro Atlanta, Macon, Columbus, Valdosta, Savannah and other places. These projects pair up academics with local governments and practitioners, and many of the projects have a “smart” or technical element to them, and/or a job training component. PIN has four pillars: economic opportunity, student engagement, community research and workforce development.

9:30 AM: Overview of Our Partnership

This program will present research from an academic partnership with the City of Savannah since 2020. These projects have been sponsored by the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation and have been led by Brian Brainerd, Meimei Lin, and Clio Andris, and have trained 5 university students. The first project that we will discuss is VADecide, a human-in-the-loop machine learning tool that was built for the City of Savannah to help them detect parcels that were vacant, abandoned or disinvested, using geographic information systems data. The second project we will discuss is the SavannahSocial project, which has two components. Through an intercept survey and an interview survey, we aim to collect information on the places where people spend time in Savannah to socialize, their perceptions of Savannah, and how the city can help make peoples’ social networks stronger.

9:45 AM: Savannah Vacant Abandoned and Disinvested (VAD) Properties Project
Our team will present a project where we created a human-in-the-loop machine learning approach for identifying vacant, abandoned, and disinvested (VAD) properties in Savannah, Georgia. This team of four practitioners and two academic researchers produced a machine learning model that inputs data about the city’s parcels (tax records, year built, neighborhood condition, crime reports, etc.) and predicts parcels that may need attention from the city. The model takes in practitioners’ knowledge and applies it to more neighborhoods in Savannah than the city’s traditional approaches typically can cover.

10:15 AM: Coffee Break

10:45 AM: SavannahSocial Short Form Survey 

The Georgia Southern team will present the Savannah Social Short Form survey, conducted during community engagement events at the Savannah Farmers' Market. This survey collects information on individuals' experiences, perceptions of social spaces, locations to avoid, reasons for avoidance, and potential improvements for enhancing social life in the city. Our presentation will provide a comprehensive overview of the survey's outcomes, highlighting positive aspects and addressing challenges. We will showcase a map of Points of Interest (POIs) identified by participants and their accessibility across neighborhoods, emphasizing disparities and challenges faced by specific groups. We will explore reasons for place avoidance in Savannah and share valuable recommendations and best practices for other communities undertaking similar studies. By outlining our lessons learned, we aim to inspire innovative approaches to community engagement and data-driven decision-making.

11:30 PM: SavannahSocial Interview Project
Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC) representatives will talk about the Savannah Social Long Form survey, an interview-based survey that engages local residents. This survey asks about people’s relationships and what they do together / where they go in the city to help support those relationships. The interview also takes in suggestions about what infrastructure can be built to help people spend more time together outside the home. This is the first known interview data collection effort that explicitly pins people’s types of ties (family, friend, romantic relationship, co-worker, etc.) to neighborhoods and specific destinations.

11:55 AM: Savannah’s Inclusive Planning Initiatives
An overview of how the City of Savannah is making inclusion and equity a feature of current planning activities in the City of Savannah to address the needs of historically marginalized populations.

12:25 PM: Closing Remarks

12:30 - 1:15 PM: Lunch from Sentient Bean (they are veggie :) ). 

1:15 PM: Academic / Practitioner Roundtable. All are welcome to stay after lunch and for a discussion with researchers and planning practitioners regarding how the survey methodology studied in the Savannah Social project could be a useful tool for neighborhood planning and development.

People & Bios:

Clio Andris is an associate professor of City and Regional Planning and Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA.

Brian Brainerd is a Senior Planner with the City of Savannah Housing and Neighborhood Services Department. He holds a Masters degree in Urban Studies and Planning from Savannah State University.
Sidney Crowe is an AmeriCorps VISTA who works as an Operations Coordinator with Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC) in Savannah, Georgia.

Kashayla Garcia is an undergraduate student of Geography at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA.

Xiaofan Liang is a PhD candidate at the School of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. She will be joining the University of Michigan in 2024.

Meimei Lin is an associate professor of Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing at Georgia Southern in Savannah, GA.

Joshua Lyons is an undergraduate student of Geography at Georgia Southern University in Savannah, GA.

Katie O’Connor, AICP, is the Community Research Manager at the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, a public private partnership that is catalyzing innovation for shared economic prosperity. 

Lizann Roberts serves as the Executive Director at the Coastal GA Indicators Coalition (CGIC) in Savannah, Georgia.

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November 2022

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