The Georgia Trust

2006 PLACES IN PERIL: U.S. HIGHWAY 17: GATEWAY TO HISTORIC BRUNSWICK & THE GOLDEN ISLES

The Story: With its open views to the marshlands, 1950s motor hotels, the WWII-era Liberty Ship Boatworks and Victorian structures dotting the landscape, the road most often associated with heading to Brunswick, St. Simons and Jekyll Island is filled with remnants of the past. Over the years, many preservationists and local organizations have tried to preserve Highway 17, known as the “Gateway to Historic Brunswick and The Golden Isles.

Threat: Along a two- to three-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 17 lies an enormous potential for well-planned development that not only incorporates the remaining historic structures and stunning vistas, but also celebrates them—like a Route 66 for the South. Yet while some areas flanking the road are parklands and private buildings already in use, a large portion of the remaining land is now up for sale or lease for development. Like Highway 17, unplanned development has occurred along many corridors leading to Georgia’s historic downtowns, threatening their historic, scenic and long-term economic value.

Solution: Leaders in the area have recently recognized the importance of this gateway to their communities. Led by Blueprint Brunswick, a master planning process has been conducted and zoning overlay created for the corridor to guide landscaping, signage, billboards and heights of new construction. In addition, we encourage area leaders to develop character-specific design guidelines to preserve and utilize existing historic resources along the corridor and to help further guide the siting and design of new construction.

Now is the time for other communities to also recognize the social and economic importance of preserving the historic and scenic qualities of these gateways to their downtowns and neighborhoods. We encourage leaders in other communities to look to Brunswick as a model and plan for the future in a manner that would benefit property owners and developers, business and patrons, tourists and residents alike.

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