Public views land plans

Four developers vie for the Anne Arundel Medical Center site

July 11, 1999|By Matthew Mosk | Matthew Mosk,SUN STAFF

The hulking eight-story Anne Arundel Medical Center tower has, for as long as anyone can recall, been an outcast on the leafy, residential blocks of old Annapolis.

The bustle of nurses in scrubs, the flash of ambulance lights and the building itself -- drab and boxy -- have looked entirely out of place in a neighborhood where misty mornings greet residents in slippers, walking their dogs past century-old homes to the waterfront.

So when hospital officials announced they would be moving to Parole after 99 years in downtown Annapolis, residents began hoping for a replacement that would blend in -- some muted, tasteful homes, unassuming townhouses, perhaps a few small shops.

Last week, they got a first glimpse of what's to come.

In a presentation to an Annapolis community group, four finalists vying to redevelop the 5-acre site laid out details of their plans. The four all promised to adhere, at least somewhat, to the community's vision. But each described a different approach that would change the atmosphere of the area.

As residents pondered the development concepts, several said they were realizing that the only thing more peculiar than a hospital in the heart of their historic district will be something entirely new.

"Whichever proposal is selected, it will be a major change for the community," said Donna Hole, the city's chief of historic preservation.

Abel J. Merrill, a 30-year Annapolis resident, said that while residents may have their preferences for one plan or another, no one "is under the illusion that we will actually have a say."

The hospital is a private concern, and while officials there have included the public in the process, they don't have further plans to do so. They have not released any information on the asking price, and a spokeswoman will say only that the final decision will come in September.

"We're like people waiting for a new pope," said Minor Carter, who heads the Ward One community group that will try to sway the hospital toward the most popular design. "We'll try to give input. But ultimately, we're going to be sitting on the outside, looking for the smoke."

Still, developers are eager to win community backing.

"Everything we've done has been done to fit into the scale and character of the neighborhood," said Russell S. Rosenberger Jr., president of Virginia-based Madison Homes, one of the four contenders. "We know Annapolis needs something that fits with its history."

That effort to conform, and the promise that each proposal would be almost entirely residential, is where the similarities end. Here, based on the presentations, sketches and drawings that have been made public, are some distinctions.

Struever, Eccles and Rouse

Perhaps the most unusual of the four proposals, this is the only one that preserves the goliath hospital building. That decision took some residents by surprise. But it fits the niche of the 25-year-old firm, which specializes in adapting old buildings for new uses.

The company's previous renovation projects in Baltimore include Tindeco Wharf, a 240-apartment complex in Canton; Canton Cove, an 89-unit condominium complex in Canton; and conversion to offices of the former Bagby Building near Little Italy. It is working on the Point, the $53 million conversion to offices of the former Procter and Gamble soap-making plant in South Baltimore.

"One of the things we delight in is working with history," Bill Struever, the company's president, told residents. "What we want to see, and what we endeavor to do, is make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

This proposal would strip the hospital's main building "to its bones" and turn it into low-density condominium units that would cost roughly $300,000 and up. The building would hold a health club and pool, and would use glass to take advantage of harbor views.

One of the team's two architects, Boggs and Partners of Annapolis, has achieved international attention for designing striking modernistic office buildings, not exactly in character with a historic neighborhood.

But Struever argued that the public should consider that an advantage: "Urban life isn't all townhouses. One of the delights of urban life is taking these unusual juxtapositions and making something that works."

The company is also the only one to keep a parking structure in place, with a plan to provide roughly 575 spaces.

The proposal includes a park on the parcel along Charles Street "that would be designed to help people celebrate the waterfront," Struever said.

Village at Franklin Park

An unusual feature of this plan by a Washington D.C.-based developer is its call for an assisted-living facility.

"We're talking about a residential blend of housing and support services for seniors," said Rita J. Bamberger, vice president of Holladay Corp. "There was a natural linkage between what we are proposing and the institutional character of what has been there until now."

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