The recent opening of the newly renovated Ellis Square in downtown Savannah garnered statewide attention. The city spent nearly $32 million and more than four years bringing back the 1.5-acre square after razing the parking deck in 2005 and building an underground garage in its place.
On top of the parking garage is a new park with a visitor's center. Landscape architect and Statesboro native Eric Bishop served as the project manager for the park and visitor's center, and local general contractor Dabbs-Williams provided complete construction services for the above ground portion of project.
Bishop is a 1993 graduate of Statesboro High School, and a 1998 graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor of landscape architecture. Bishop is a senior associate with AECOM (NYSE: ACM), a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government.
"The Ellis Square project presented some unique challenges," Bishop said. "First, it was being built on top of an underground parking garage. When we got involved, the garage was under design, so we based our design using the specifications provided to us by those designing the garage. What was built wasn't exactly to the specifications that we had received, so we had to work around that."
The park part of the project got underway last March taking approximately one year to complete. With a glass-walled visitor center, restrooms with grass growing on the roof to capture rainwater, a giant chessboard with knee-high pieces, and a $440,000 fountain that shoots streams of water 10 feet in the air, Ellis Square Park has become a destination for visitors even though it opened just three weeks ago.
Dabbs-Williams worked in close concert with Bishop on the construction of the park.
"Our scope included the rough and fine grading (above the parking deck), utility work, design/ build for the interactive fountain, building the new glass hospitality center, and the new restroom facilities," said Brad Williams, vice president of Dabbs-Williams. "We installed the bluestone pavers, as well as all precast concrete, landscaping, lighting, grass roofing, stainless steel soffits and fascia. In addition to me, our team also included Statesboro native Brad Riner as well as Jimmy Parramore."
David White, director of the City of Savannah Park and Tree Department said Bishop came up with some innovative ideas for the project.
"Savannah is pretty flat," White said. "So Eric (Bishop) designed the square where there would be some elevation changes within it. It gives the park much more visual interest, instead of it just being all on one level."
White also said that weight limitations posed a big challenge. "Because the park sits on top of a garage, you can only have a certain depth of soil due to soil's weight. They were able to design around that."
Ellis Square, the city's second largest, was among the first four squares plotted by James Edward Oglethorpe, who founded Georgia as the 13th American colony in 1733. It was named for Sir Henry Ellis, Georgia's second royal governor. Because of its location, Williams said construction posed some unique problems.
"Some of the challenges were coordination with downtown businesses that were affected and the logistics of the project site," he said. "It is in a high traffic historic area near City Market. It was a very neat project, and we are thrilled with the results."
Bishop has a number of accomplishments to his credit which include leading the design team from AECOM which won the History Channel's "City of the Future" competition in 2008 - which challenged them to envision the Atlanta of 2108.
"Currently I am working on the redesign of an industrial waterfront in Brooklyn, N.Y., which will become a park," he said. "It is an interesting and complex project. I am also assisting on a new tower in South Korea which is going to be part of the expansion of Seoul. It was scheduled to be the second tallest in the world upon completion."
Bishop said his firm is doing quite a bit of consulting with local governments. "There seems to be a general acknowledgement that when the recession ends, we will be coming into a new economy," he said. "Cities are trying to figure out what the ramifications of that may be, and to be prepared for those."
A Fortune 500 company, AECOM serves clients in more than 100 countries, employees over 45,000 people around the world, and had revenue of $6.1 billion during the 12-month period ended December 31, 2009. To learn more about AECOM, visit their website at www.aecom.com.
Founded in 2000 by R. Earl Dabbs, Jr. and Williams, Dabbs-Williams operates in the commercial construction industry as a full service general contractor. To learn more about Dabbs-Williams, visit their website at www.dabbs-williams.com.