Final Park Place hearing could lead to plan approval

Board of appeals to meet Thursday on development

July 10, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

A fourth and final public hearing on Park Place this week could set the stage for a major approval needed by the Annapolis developer planning to build the large-scale West Street complex of condominiums, a hotel, offices, a garage and auditorium.

The Annapolis Board of Appeals is scheduled to hold its final public hearing on the project at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. A written decision is expected within a few days.

Developer Jerome J. Parks needs the board's approval to move forward with his $150 million proposal to build a 225-room hotel, two office buildings, a 950-seat auditorium, 208 condominiums and a 1,400-space parking garage on the 7-acre site over 10 years. The Planning Commission approved the project in May.

"We're as far as we think we can go," said Sam Minnitte, a spokesman for the project. "We think we've gone a long way."

The hearing is the fourth in a series of presentations by the city, the developer and the public, said Judith Billage, chairwoman of the board of appeals. The hearing will allow the board to discuss issues and deliberate.

Most of the people who have spoken at the hearings supported the project, Billage said.

"There's been so much discussion with the community," she said.

The developer and his team of architects and engineers have been meeting with residents and working with city officials for more than 10 months to finalize plans. A focus group of 20 residents and business leaders was started in February, and an open house was held at the site in April.

Minnitte said it was important to get the community comfortable with such a large project, as well as to address concerns about traffic and density.

Based on recommendations from city officials and residents, Minnitte said, more than 35 changes have been made to the project, including landscaping, scaling down the hotel and adding more trees for shade.

If the appeals board approves the project, Minnitte said, the developer will begin applying for the needed permits and financing. He also will start talking to potential tenants.

Parks plans to build the project in three stages.

The development would be a major component of the city's plan to revitalize the Inner West Street Corridor. More than $11 million has been allocated for road resurfacing and replacement of 120-year-old waterlines and an outdated sewer system between Westgate and Church circles, and the city has budgeted $8.6 million to build a 500-space parking garage at West Street and Colonial Avenue.

Minnitte said the developer also has been working with the city on a transit plan to help alleviate the parking crunch downtown, while still attracting visitors. The city has proposed adding more shuttles from the stadium to downtown attractions, including Park Place.

"We've done so much, in terms of changing the project," Minnitte said. "At this point, we're just hopeful."

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