Truffles closes on West Street Gilmer has idea for redevelopment

February 04, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Truffles, the popular Annapolis eatery known for its sinfully sweet desserts, closed this week, the latest victim of the economic downturn on West Street.

Michelle O'Brien, owner of the quaint, upscale restaurant at 50 West St., said yesterday that her business was struggling because of poor parking and the growing number of empty shops in the first block of the street.

"The problem on West Street, as you know, is half the places are vacant on the block," she said.

Truffles is one of at least four shops to leave Inner West Street in recent months.

"It was time to move on," she said. "It was a tough decision, it really was. I'm going to miss our regular customers."

Although she quietly closed Monday what was a favorite luncheon spot for five years, Ms. O'Brien said she would continue her catering business and bakery from Garry's Grill in the 500 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Severna Park.

The rest of the West Street corridor that stretches from the historic heart of Maryland's capital to Parole is also struggling through the recession. The increase in vacant buildings has prompted Alderman Samuel Gilmer to come up with a plan he hopes will give at least part of West Street a new lease on life.

Mr. Gilmer, a Democrat who represents the 3rd Ward, wants the city to sponsor a design competition to redevelop a section known as "Taylor West," from Madison Place to the old B&A Railroad tracks, along Taylor Avenue and back to Amos Garrett Boulevard.

Several vacant lots, the abandoned Capital building and empty storefronts have caused the area to lose its luster, Mr. Gilmer said.

"If we wait for each individual parcel to be renovated, it will be a piecemeal thing," he said. "Right now, you have strip storefronts, empty lots and no place to park."

The corridor should have a residential community as an anchor, he said. Small homes, town houses or garden-style apartments could serve as the base for a business center or mini-mall.

Since the zoning is mixed along West Street, changes for the project should be fairly easy, said Mr. Gilmer, who plans to introduce a resolution Monday night in the City Council calling for a design competition with a $10,000 award.

"Let's get something on the ball," Mr. Gilmer said.

West Street was once a flourishing residential and business community. But the corridor gradually deteriorated with the increased focus on Main Street and the development of newer shopping centers in the western outskirts of Annapolis.

In 1989, the city began a much-heralded effort to revitalize Inner West Street, which runs from Church Circle to Spa Road. Several developers constructed new office buildings, and new shops were lured to the corridor under rezoning. But the economic downturn of recent years coupled with continuing parking problems and inflated rents has slowed the progress.

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