City wants Tate Alley reopened Fences around burned building block walkway

November 19, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

With no building left to fight over, the city of Annapolis and the owner of 184-186 Main St., which was destroyed in a spectacular fire nearly a year ago, are fighting over the alley next to the property.

With the holiday shopping season approaching, the city has asked Ronald B. Hollander to reopen Tate Alley, connecting Main Street to State Circle, a walkway he has blocked with fences to enclose the remains of his building. But Hollander said opening the alley would give vandals more access to the rubble-filled lot and could open him to more liability, even if he puts up a fence along the walkway, as the city has asked.

He said lawyers from his insurance company would respond to the city's Nov. 10 request.

It's the latest dispute in a conflict that began as the embers cooled after the fire Dec. 9, 1997. The blaze destroyed most of Hollander's two-story building, leaving the brick facade on Main Street.

Hollander wanted to tear down the wall to make way for a new building, but the Historic Preservation Commission blocked him, saying the facade, built as the city's first department store in 1899, should be preserved.

The question of whether to preserve the wall or demolish it was answered in August when winds from a heavy thunderstorm knocked bricks loose and caused such cracks and deterioration that the city ordered the wall demolished.

Hollander and the city are locked in a court dispute over the $40,000 bill for shoring up the wall after the fire. Hollander has refused to pay.

"We think the mayor is just trying to get even with us because we stood up to the city," Hollander said of the alley request.

He said Tate Alley is not essential to provide access to Main Street businesses because another alley connects the street to State Circle and a third alley, which connects Main Street to Francis Street, is accessible to the disabled.

But the walkway should be reopened because it is a public right of way, said Mayor Dean L. Johnson. Lights on the building next to the alley provide safety and are a deterrent to vandals, he said.

The walkways between buildings may not bring in great numbers of customers, but every little bit helps in a district where rents are high, said David Kneas, owner of Ocean II Records near Hollander's property and a former tenant of Hollander.

The alleys are especially important to residents who know their way around downtown, said David L. Smith, acting director of the city's Department of Public Works.

He held out hope that Hollander would respond favorably with the request.

"In the spirit of cooperation I would think he would comply without thinking twice about it," Smith said. "He's part of the downtown business community, and he should work with the family."

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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