Annapolis' historic City Hall could be sold to the YWCA under a novel plan to keep the non-profit agency downtown while consolidating thecity's offices.
Worried by the space crunch in the Colonial-era landmark, city leaders have proposed centralizing administrative offices in a five-story building owned by Annapolis Federal Savings Bank on Main Street. The bank would then take over City Hall and sell it tothe YWCA, which is also looking for a larger home.
In unveiling the potential three-way deal Monday night, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins emphasized that it would bring scattered government offices under one roof.
He said the city would retain its meeting room on the second floor, once a grand ballroom where George Washingtondanced at a party in his honor in 1783.
City Council members, taken aback by the proposal, gave it a cool reception.
"You've just thrown a pretty heady thing out to us," Alderman Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4, told the mayor. "This is a big philosophical decision for us to make."
Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, questioned why the YWCA couldnot simply move into the bank building, saving the city's role as intermediary. She also criticized the way the full-blown proposal was brought to the council instead of being included in the capital budget, scheduled to be released Friday.
City Administrator Michael Mallinoff said the administration wanted to start discussions immediatelybecause the YWCA has an option on property in Parole. The agency currently has its headquarters at 40 State Circle, across from the StateHouse, in a choice real-estate corridor of Maryland's capital.
Dolores Bail, executive director of the YWCA, was out of town yesterdayand could not be reached for comment. Mallinoff and Alderman John Hammond, R-Ward 1, said the YWCA wants to move its offices, corner shopand a women's center, now on Duke of Gloucester Street, into one building.
The YWCA contacted Annapolis Federal about purchasing its former administrative offices above the Pewter Chalice at 140 Main St., but decided the building was too large, said Gilbert Hardesty, president of the thrift.
"I know the city is very anxious to keep the YWCA in downtown Annapolis and, at the same time, the city needs morespace," he said yesterday. "This seems like an opportunity to satisfy all three situations."
Council members demanded more details from the administration, saying they could not make a hasty decision on the historic hall.
Built in the early 1700s, the three-story building on Duke of Gloucester Street was the site of historic decisions and parties, including a fete for George Washington when he came to Annapolis to resign as commander of the Continental Army.
The eight aldermen agreed that the government needs more office space, especially for its Office of Planning and Zoning, which shares a cramped former fire station across from City Hall. But few welcomed the proposed swap.
Yesterday, Hammond criticized the lack of a long-range plan to cope with the growing demand for office space. He also pointed outthat the city has other options, such as building a separate public works facility.
Alderman Theresa DeGraff echoed the sentiments of many longtime Annapolis residents who said they're attached to the red-brick hall, with its chipping green trimming and worn stoops.
"Ilove City Hall," said DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican. "It's old and rickety and just wonderful."
The mayor said he shared those feelings, but also remembered the days when all city offices, including the police station, were housed in City Hall. Those days are past, he said, and the government is spread across Annapolis.