New conference center is proposed

March 11, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The Annapolis City Council's Finance Committee, looking at ways to upgrade West Street, is considering options ranging from planting more trees to building a $25 million conference center.

Last night, the committee listened to suggestions from the city's planning and zoning officials as well as members of the community on what to do in the district west of Church Circle.

Projects discussed included redesigning the Taylor Avenue and West Street intersection to create a traffic circle, burying overhead utility lines, beautifying the street with trees and benches, and building parking lots to ease traffic congestion.

Many of those suggestions have been around since at least 1985, when a study was done of the inner West Street area.

But a relatively new suggestion, and the biggest proposal to change the face of West Street, would be the creation of a conference center.

Tom Negri, who heads a committee of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau that is studying the conference center, said such a facility not only would be a boon to West Street, but would help the city's financially strapped hotels.

The committee is considering two proposed sites for the conference center: the 11-acre Menke-Phipps tract at Taylor Avenue and West Street and a 28-acre parcel owned by the Anne Arundel Medical Center on the south side of Jennifer Road near Annapolis Mall.

The plan, as it now stands, is to publicly finance the conference center with state and local funds. A committee charged with developing plans for the center is seeking $1.5 million for design and engineering -- $1 million from the state and $250,000 each from Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and County Executive Robert R. Neall have informed Anne Arundel legislators of their willingness to contribute the $500,000, contingent on City and County councils' approval.

Some legislators have said the hotel and restaurant industry should pay for a substantial part of the conference center, and that sentiment was echoed in last night's meeting.

Mr. Negri said private businesses were willing to finance a transportation system serving the center at a cost of between $3.5 million and $5 million. The shuttle system would link the conference center with downtown Annapolis, local hotels, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas.

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