Main Street's hole

Anne Arundel: Mayor is running out of time to show leadership and fill capital city's bleak, blank space.

March 06, 2001

EMPTY. VACANT. VOID.

Those descriptions fit 184-186 Main Street in Annapolis, which housed a commercial building in the city's proud historic district until a five-alarm fire destroyed the century-old structure three years ago.

Empty, vacant and void also could describe the bag of ideas that Mayor Dean L. Johnson has brought to the table to fill the space and build something worthwhile on that important site.

The void is becoming symbolic of Mayor Johnson's tenure.

Many Annapolis residents, including former supporters, believe he's a man of great intention but little result. That's not good for an incumbent up for re-election this year.

He's under fire from preservationist zealots who wanted the building's charred and undistinguished facade to remain, although the fire rendered it useless for historic significance or anything else. And he's getting rapped by those who thought he should have moved early and decisively to tear down the facade and pushed for immediate reconstruction.

As mayor, Mr. Johnson is the only Annapolitan with the leverage to get something done. He doesn't have to be a weak mayor.

Instead of showing leadership, however, he watched passively from the sidelines until a thunderstorm damaged the wall beyond repair eight months later and made preservation a moot point.

You'd think something would have gotten done after that issue was settled.

Nope. Two-and-a-half years later, the abyss remains and eyesore on a busy street of shops, restaurants and offices.

The mayor must use his influence to extract a solution from the property's owner, preservationists and neighbors. He should have done it long ago. Now he's running out of time to get it done in his first term -- the only one he's guaranteed.

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