They agreed on this much: Nobody wants to turn Eastport into a miniature Harborplace or Fells Point.
But that's not to say it wouldn'tmake a dandy spot for a floating restaurant, a waterfront boardwalk,the boat yard that builds an America's Cup winner, markets meant forstrolling, a maritime museum, a destination for yachts and water taxis alike.
Give a bunch of architects a weekend to dream up ideas on what todo with the last waterfront property in Annapolis and you get, well,all of the above.
Such fanciful imaginings exist now only in 3-D models, artists' renditions and architects' drawings -- widely varying visions for the land along Back Creek, produced by three teams of volunteer architects in a marathon "design charrette" last weekend.
But ultimately, their handiwork -- or, more precisely, the ideas that make the final cut -- will go a long way toward deciding the futureof the waterfront parcel.
What becomes of that prime land, most of it being sold by Bert Jabin's Yacht Yard at Second Street and Eastern Avenue, is of no small concern to city leaders, naturally. That explains why they're already seeking architects' ideas on how to preserve both the small-town character and the rich maritime tradition -- even though nobody knows yet precisely how much the land will cost, who might buy it or when.
For design ideas, the city turned to the American Institute of Architects Chesapeake chapter. The AIA will review the concepts and incorporate elements into a single recommendationfor the estimated three acres by August.
All the architects involved agreed they faced a daunting challenge: How do you make the project profitable enough to attract a buyer, while keeping land values from soaring so much that no boat yard could afford to stay?
"You know, we could spend a lot of money here and do a lot of nice things and probably drive the boat yards right out of here," said Craig Purcell, an architect with Schwarz Purcell of Annapolis and a member of oneof the three design teams. "It's kind of like reverse development. To enable the maritime industry to stay, you have to keep the propertyvalue down."
To that end, Purcell's team suggests keeping out large restaurants or markets, boardwalks or pavilions, lest the old waterfront become a crowded tourist trap. Rather, Purcell envisions a fishing village with a huge boat yard and an international yacht center at its core.
Purcell says the boat yard, lined with 15-foot pylonswith utility hookups, would serve as "Eastport's flagship reason forbeing there." Perhaps, he says, the boat yard could even build an America's Cup competitor, spreading Eastport's renown to boating circles everywhere.
His team's plan also calls for a tower with a harbormaster's office overlooking the water, 10 affordable homes similar to the two-story wood-frame houses lining streets now, and a small open-air seafood market near the Maryland Watermen's Cooperative.
While Purcell's team stresses the maritime industry as the centerpiece of the property, architect Scott Martin, of Lee-Warner Associates, said his team strove to "provide a little something for everyone -- the neighborhood locals, tourists, watermen, the maritime industry, pleasure boaters."
The team's drawings certainly reflect that goal.
Its plan, like the other two, would retain a boat yard and the old McNasby's seafood processing plant, which the city reopened in 1989 as the Maryland Watermen's Cooperative.
But Martin also wants a waterfront boardwalk, retail shops, water taxis, a floating restaurant, a seafood marketplace similar to the one at City Dock in Annapolis, space for outdoor artisans, a nature trail and a public boat ramp.
Such diversity would attract visitors to Eastport, Martin said. "Peopleprobably won't drive down just to eat crabs," he added.
People driving to Eastport -- enough people to jam the narrow residential streets with cars, truck and boats in tow -- is precisely what worries architect Fred Sieracki.
"It would be very, very tough to get a lot of cars through Eastport. You'd be building a large parking lot," said Sieracki, of Halpern Architects in Annapolis.
Thus, his team sought to keep a spillover of downtown tourists to a minimum. The architects considered showcasing the watermen's cooperative as their most important goal, Sieracki said, and want to connect the co-op to markets across the street with pavilions.
The design also includes a boardwalk that would extend from the co-op to Third Street -- where a crabbing pier would jut into the water -- a restaurant and a water taxistop.
Sieracki said traffic nightmares could be avoided by encouraging visitors to travel to Eastport from Annapolis on water taxis instead of driving.
Catherine Cherry, who coordinated the design effort along with architect Michael Dowling at the request of city officials, said she's confident ideas from all three teams will be used toplan the future of the Back Creek waterfront.