Garage delays upset some

Preservationists do not want city to demolish buildings

February 20, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

During the public comment period at Annapolis city council meetings, most people bring concerns and questions to the mayor and aldermen.

Cecil C. Knighton sang a song instead.

"Don't forsake me, oh my darling," Knighton serenaded the council Monday night.

The musical interlude might have earned a few smiles and giggles, but it was laced with frustration and concern over the city's handling of a proposed parking garage in the 100 block of West St. Knighton sold some of the land to the city and gave it the rest it needs for a much-needed parking structure.

He and some business owners and residents want to know one thing: When is the city going to make a decision on the 37,000-square-foot site?

Knighton, who handed over the parcel to the city in June, said, "It looks to me like the city has cold feet. I was just trying to bump them back into going ahead with it."

The city did move a step closer by introducing a resolution to develop an action plan for a mixed-use parking facility at the site at Colonial Avenue and West Street.

The resolution will be voted on at the council's next regular meeting in March.

The resolution includes the formation of a Development Program Objective Committee to study alternatives and give a recommendation to the council no later than June 15. Mayor Dean L. Johnson said he is choosing seven to nine residents, business owners and people throughout the city to serve on the committee.

"It should be in place soon," Johnson said this week, declining to identify the committee members until all the appointments are made.

The resolution would give the city the go-ahead to demolish two of the seven buildings on the site to build a temporary surface parking lot.

Demolition halted

The city was ready to raze all seven buildings to construct a parking garage, but preservationists stepped in to protect five of the structures, which were more than 100 years old, until their historic value could be determined.

Knighton said he didn't understand why the city called off the wrecking balls, just before the planned demolition.

`Ludicrous'

When he sold most of the property for $1.1 million and donated the rest to the city, Knighton said, it was intended to be used for a parking garage.

"They made it clear they'd do this and call it the Martha and Cecil Knighton Parking Facility," Knighton said. "This is just ludicrous and absurd."

Knighton said the buildings aren't worth the trouble.

"The indisputable reality is that they sit unoccupied, falling to pieces," he told the council.

Committees established

The city administration has established two committees to study construction of the garage and commissioned a private study of the historic significance of the five turn-of-the-century buildings at the site.

One committee will examine the city's parking needs and the economic viability of saving the five buildings.

The other group will study how a facility can be designed at the site that preserves some of West Street's traditional streetscape.

Brian Cahalan, owner of 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar, Gallery, told the council the proposed garage would alleviate parking stress on Inner West Street and bring more customers to the area.

"The street is suffering" and the parking garage is needed "very badly," Cahalan said.

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