A long-standing feud over the new look of Main Street in downtown Annapolis moved toward compromise last night when scores of residents expressed general support for the reconstruction plan, raising concerns only over small details and technical issues.
At a hearing of the Historic District Commission (HDC), residents and business people gathered at City Hall to critique publicly the city's proposed rebricking and reconstruction project for Main Street.
"We're very encouraged by the city's responsiveness to concerns made by the HDC," said Stephanie Carroll, director of preservation for the Historic Annapolis Foundation. "We feel refinements to the design are also moving in the right direction."
The HDC is considering whether to grant final approval to the plan and will make a decision in the coming weeks. City officials say the project is nearly two months behind schedule because the HDC has not approved a final plan.
At issue is a $5 million project to bury overhead utility lines, plant trees, add benches, widen the sidewalks in some spots and cover the 300-year-old street with new red bricks from City Dock to Church Circle.
Residents grappled over the details of the plan, such as the trees, the location of traffic islands, the kinds of parking spaces and the placement of crosswalks.
The most contentious issue, the width of the new sidewalks, raised little ire last night. In the city's proposed compromise plan, sidewalks are generally narrower and follow the line of the street's storefronts. Most residents offered only one suggestion -- to eliminate one or two locations where walkways bulge into the roadway to accommodate underground utility stations.
A couple of months ago, city officials and residents were arguing over nearly every inch of Main Street.
Many residents accused the government of trying to turn Main Street into a garish pedestrian mall by widening the sidewalks and possibly inviting sidewalk cafes.
City officials countered that the project was being held hostage by a small group of residents who were nitpicking the project to death. The debate was less about historic integrity and more about local power plays, the officials argued, warning that $2.5 -- million in state funding was in jeopardy if further delays ensued.
But after a series of meetings between the city and the HDC, which must approve all construction in the city's oldest district, much of the bitter and personal debate has died down.
"We've gotten beyond the atom-bomb point," said City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff.
Although the city has yet to receive a check from the state for half of the project's funding, Mr. Mallinoff said he no longer is quite as concerned that the state money will be withheld.