Annapolis business owners who want to save a downtown parking garage had expected to argue last night with residents who want the building razed but emerged instead as allies in a campaign to press local government to solve the state capital's parking crisis.
Local attorney William M. Simmons called the meeting, held at a downtown coffeehouse, to discuss ways to lobby city officials to keep Anne Arundel Medical Center's 330-space garage at Shaw and South streets. The hospital is moving to Parole in 2001.
Downtown Annapolis residents want Madison Homes, the Virginia company that will redevelop the hospital grounds, to raze the garage and build homes and condominiums on the 5-acre site.
Yesterday, about 20 people from both camps put aside their differences to join forces in attacking a parking shortage that prompts garages to fill by 9: 30 a.m. The situation has been exacerbated by the new Anne Arundel County Circuit Courthouse -- built without parking -- and the situation is expected to worsen when the General Assembly convenes next month.
"The catalyst for this meeting was the hospital garage," said John Hammond, a downtown resident. "But this is an issue that's larger than that. It's a transportation and parking issue, and it ought to be looked at in that context."
Several business people argued in favor of saving the hospital garage until an alternative transportation or parking solution is worked out.
Alan J. Hyatt, Madison Homes' attorney, said yesterday that the developer has no plans to keep the garage.
"The fact is, there's a resource here," said T. Phillip Dunn, an Annapolis commercial real estate developer who has had difficulty renting downtown properties because of the parking problem. "It's senseless to waste it until we've solved our problem. We need to have the city address it."
Mayor Dean L. Johnson has said he is encouraging city planners to come up with a solution for the downtown parking shortage.
Some argued that tearing down the garage would restore a view of the waterfront.
"I don't think anybody would argue with the premise that that was the wrong place to build the garage in the first place," Hammond said. "But we were trying to get the hospital to stay in the city, and we decided we would put up with the garage."
Brian Cahalan, who owns 49 West Coffeehouse where the meeting was held, said the city needs to provide parking for circuit courthouse employees.
Alderman Louise Hammond, a Democrat representing downtown, believes the parking shortage could be solved if the city would resurrect a committee dissolved four years ago by former Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins.
Simmons hopes to get more residents and business people to pressure the city administration to work on a solution.