Choked with traffic in its historic streets, Annapolis is starting construction of a much-awaited garage to ease the parking crunch.
The city awarded a $4.2-million contract Tuesday to Omni Construction Co. of Washington to build the 540-space garage behind the Arundel Center on Calvert Street.
In a coup for Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, who promised during his campaign to build the long-planned garage, the city is paying $1.3 million less than the original estimate. Omni was the lower of two bidders.
Construction of the 10-level parking structure, which will be no more than 32 feet high, is scheduled to start "within a couple of weeks," said Emory Harrison, central services coordinator. With 2 1/2 stories below ground, the garage will be "significantly lower" than the Arundel Center or 60 West St. office building, Harrison said.
The city just finished excavating Gotts Court, a parking lot that was once the site of 25 tenement houses for poor black families.
In 1907, William Gotts built twin blocks of ramshackle row homes and rented them to black laborers. A team of archaeologists spent several months unearthing artifacts buried in the yards of the homes, which were torn down in post-World War II urban renewal.
Chris Goodwin and Associates, the Frederick-based consulting company that has been cleaning and cataloging the artifacts, will complete a report on the history of the community based on the findings. The fragments of bottles and household debris, which includes butchered bones, ceramics pieces, buttons and ironstone, will be displayed in the city, Harrison said.
The Maryland Historical Trust requested the $47,500 dig when the city made plans to build the multilevel garage. The project will document the lives of the servants, laundresses, porters and cooks who lived at Gotts Court.
"The company found a volume of materials," Harrison said. "Nothing's intact, but the small bits and pieces, when allput together, willallow certain interpretations to be made."
Annapolis sold $5.9 million in long-term construction bonds last fall to finance construction of the Gotts Court garage and renovations to theTruxton Park swimming pool. The state is chipping in $2 million toward the building costs in exchange for the use of 125 spaces in the garage.
Plans for a second downtown garage to ease the city's parking problems have been in the works for more than five years. Construction of the long-awaited structure is expected to take a year, Harrison said.