SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Kessler Collection’s Plant Riverside District—the largest redevelopment in the history of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District—has officially opened as “Savannah’s Entertainment District,” a $375 million project expanding the city’s iconic riverfront to a 4.5-acre waterfront hospitality and entertainment destination, anchored by the 419-room JW Marriott Savannah hotel.
“Plant Riverside District is my career legacy and gift to my hometown of Savannah,” said Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of The Kessler Collection. “The project brings new life to Savannah’s riverfront with world-class entertainment, curated galleries, over a dozen dining options, and jaw-dropping natural science exhibits for all ages. It’s truly a unique visitor experience and the first of its kind in the southeast.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on July 29 and included speeches from Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and Mayor Van Johnson. “In place of a generator that once produced electricity, Richard’s vision created a new generator—an economic driver that provides 600 to 800 new jobs and new tax revenues for local governments,” said Mayor Johnson. Others in attendance included key executives from The Kessler Collection, development partners Sottile & Sottile, AECOM/Hunt Construction, and artist Franco Castelluccio, who was commissioned to sculpt a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. for the riverfront park.
The development includes more than a dozen restaurants and lounges, including Baobab Lounge, an upscale parlor rooted in African culture; Electric Moon, a high-energy rooftop bar with slides from deck to terrace; and Graffito, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria. The quarter-mile extension of new riverwalk offers open-air riverfront dining at District Smokehouse, District Seafood, and Riverfront Biergarten, the latter in partnership with Savannah-based Service Brewing. The riverwalk will have entertainment experiences built around local culture and music, including cirque entertainers.
The district also has an art gallery, a riverfront park honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and natural science exhibits for all ages, including a 135-foot chrome-dipped dinosaur; oversized geodes, gemstones, and fossils; a pre-historic tortoiseshell; an Ice Age bear; and the world’s largest nugget of copper. Daily experiential programming will range from family-friendly scavenger hunts and a dinosaur dig area to yoga classes on the Electric Moon terrace and noon performances at a seven-foot pipe organ on the Beethoven Terrace.
In addition, Savannah’s fifth official district will include two hotels within the JW Marriott Savannah, each with a customized atmosphere to match its style: romantic and elegant styling in the Three Muses building and historic chic architecture in the Power Plant building.
Phase two of Plant Riverside District will include three additional options for food and drink (Stone & Webster Chophouse, Myrtle & Rose, and Savannah Tequila Co.), and phase three in Spring 2021 will debut a third mixed-use hotel building within the complex dubbed The Atlantic, themed around contemporary maritime details. Live Music Venue, a concert venue with acts by Live Nation, and Compass Pool Lounge, a rooftop pool with views of the Savannah River, are also slated to join the district.