Unveiled City Dock plan worries merchants

March 08, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

5/8 TC Downtown merchants, already fearful of the effects of Main Street reconstruction, are worried that a proposed renovation of City Dock could mean more traffic delays, fewer parking spaces and plenty of lost business.

"I think it would be lovely to get some plantings out here, but if we lose one parking space we are out of our minds," warned George Phillips, owner of the Harbour House restaurant at City Dock.

City officials unveiled Monday a $10-million plan for City Dock renovations that would widen sidewalks, add landscaping and construct a wraparound walkway by the water's edge.

Michael D. Mallinoff, the city administrator, said Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins wants to revamp the dock area before boats from the Whitbread Round the World Race, an international yacht race, come to Annapolis in May 1998.

The City Dock project would start with renovations at Susan Campbell Park and also would include widening the sidewalks at Market Space, redesigning the dock's plazas and adding a waterfront promenade around City Dock, Planning and Zoning Director Eileen Fogerty said. The proposed renovations are aimed at creating more pedestrian spaces. That could mean the relocation of parking spots, which is anathema to some business owners.

But city officials say the project only would add to business in the long run because it would beautify the area. They cautioned merchants not to draw conclusions before the plans are on paper.

"We're looking at mostly beautification issues for the City Dock," Ms. Fogerty said.

With City Dock renovations added to Main Street reconstruction, which is scheduled to begin this month and go on for a year, downtown merchants would have little relief from the disruptions caused by construction, Mr. Phillips complained.

The last time City Dock was refurbished, in 1981, some shopkeepers said their customers disappeared for nearly a year. Joe Martin, who owns Mann's Sandwiches in the Market House, said he lost 50 percent of his daily business during seven months.

"People didn't come down," said Mr. Martin, who has run a sandwich stand at the dock for 24 years. "All the windows vibrated and there was all that noise. You could hear everything vibrate for a quarter-mile."

During the 1981 renovations, the city widened a turn-around basin by the Market House to accommodate boat traffic, reinforced the bulkhead, rebricked Susan Campbell Park and repaired Dock Street.

Now, some city officials are girding themselves for a showdown over City Dock on the scale of the Main Street debate.

"It seems that everything in the last year has fallen victim to an outcry from downtown," said Ward 8 Alderman Ellen O. Moyer.

The outcry would come, she said, even though several development plans, including the Ward One Sector Study approved by the City Council last spring, already have prescribed a dramatic redesign plan for City Dock.

Ward 5 Alderman Carl O. Snowden has promised to hold hearings on the project before voting on the funding on it late next month.

Meanwhile, city officials continue to lobby the state for $5 million, half the cost of the project. Mr. Mallinoff said the city started lobbying early so that the project could be completed in time for Whitbread.

The event is coveted by waterside cities as a tremendous piece of free advertising.

Nevertheless, some critics question whether the contest -- three days with yachts in Annapolis before they start the next leg of the race -- merits a rush on City Dock renovations. The city would do better to wait until the dock is in real need of repair, they contend.

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