Annapolis' new Gotts Court Parking Garage is a home run -- an architectural triumph and key element in the revitalization of downtown.
But its impact must be kept in perspective. The garage alone will not solve the capital city's economic problems, especially those of West Street.
Of course, West Street businesses have good reason to celebrate the opening of this facility, which has been talked about for 30 years. By providing much needed parking space for shops and offices, the garage seems guaranteed to give West Street a shot in the arm.
But, as Alderman Carl Snowden noted, "This is not the Second Coming." The ultimate cure for revitalizing shops and commercial business along West Street lies in a solid economic plan, the kind of road map that the city's yet-to-be-hired economic development coordinator should be responsible for constructing.
As it is, the West Street corridor has no focus. It needs an identity, a focal point -- perhaps a new municipal building. Planning and zoning officials, the new economic development coordinator and West Street merchants need to remedy the lack of cohesiveness that has always prevented West Street from becoming a booming district adjacent to the historic and government sections of Annapolis.
The Gotts garage is a critical first step, not just for West Street, but for all of downtown. The garage was a crucial factor in ensuring that county officials kept the Circuit Court House on Church Circle.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Gotts garage is how it looks. Parking garages are among the most unglamorous of architectural structures; consider the Whitmore garage opposite Gotts, a block of concrete ugliness if ever there was one. But the Gotts facility was designed with more than function in mind. Made of brick and only 32 feet high, it actually seems to belong in the downtown historic district.
Plus, the garage came in under budget and was completed ahead of schedule. About the only negative thing to be said is that it makes the neighboring Arundel Center government complex look downright dowdy by comparison.
Annapolis Mayor Alfred Hopkins, who promised the garage during his 1989 campaign, and the City Council's finance committee, which rode herd on the project, can justifiably look upon Gotts as a coup -- as long as they remember that the work of saving downtown is far from complete.