West Street's chicken-egg dilemma Anne Arundel County: Public infrastructure and ideas needed to spur private investment.

March 17, 1997

REDEVELOPING ANNAPOLIS' West Street corridor will require millions of dollars that the city does not currently have. This fact should not deter city officials from proceeding with their ambitious plans.

It is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: Without the planned infrastructure improvements, there is little likelihood of attracting the private capital necessary to rehabilitate this dilapidated section of the state capital.

Annapolis officials have wisely decided to manage traffic better in that area by creating a traffic circle at the intersection of Taylor Avenue, Spa Road and West Street. The circle -- actually a two-lane ellipse -- will cost about $4.9 million, mostly to relocate water, sewer and gas lines and bury electrical and telephone lines.

Some citizens find the current plans unfriendly to pedestrians. Benches, sidewalks and trees should be added so that it accommodates pedestrians as well as automobiles.

With proper design, the circle could become a focal point and define the western end of Annapolis' proposed redevelopment area.

Building a new traffic circle without rehabilitating the remainder of West Street would be a mistake.

Improving the street's appearance will make the area more attractive to developers. Underground utilities would remove much of the clutter of wires and poles that mars the streetscape. Adding benches and planters will help uplift the neighborhood, dominated now by vacant lots and empty storefronts.

Skeptics don't believe Annapolis can obtain the estimated $8 million or $9 million needed to complete the rehabilitation of Inner West Street.

While the sum may seem daunting, it can be raised through the judicious use of city bonds and community development grants from county, state and federal governments.

Creating a special assessment district or an incremental tax district -- both of which target the beneficiaries of the improvements -- could also generate extra revenue to cover the costs.

Lack of money is a high hurdle facing Annapolis officials, but not the most formidable one. The real obstacle that has long undermined efforts to rehabilitate this section of the city is lack of vision.

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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