Signs point to West St. revival

Road improvements, development in works

`It's happening'

Annapolis

July 02, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

The green and white banners on Annapolis' inner West Street proclaim, "It's happening."

Property owners and business persons along the stretch of road from Church Circle to Westgate Circle hope the message, part of a $25,000 marketing campaign by the city, is more than just civic optimism.

Supporters point to encouraging signs: the issuance of building permits for the Park Place development yesterday, the city's plans to begin the second phase of improvements to the road, and other development in the works.

"In the next year, you will see a lot of tangible things happening that are really going to give enormous boost and reality to that phrase," Bob Kramer, Park Place spokesman, said about the new slogan.

In the short term, though, motorists will have to endure traffic snarls as the city replaces utility lines, repaves streets and improves the streetscape from Colonial Avenue to Calvert Street.

The mostly derelict strip has been targeted by the city for revitalization for almost two decades. Development has come in spurts over the years, but business owners, city officials and developers predict that soon their hopes for the street will be realized.

Last week, the city launched the marketing campaign to helping promote West Street businesses during road reconstruction.

The second phase of the $13.1 million project is expected to tie up traffic on the stretch for about 10 months, said Joseph A. Baker Jr., the city's chief of engineering and construction. The first phase was completed in January; the third phase will extend improvements from Calvert Street to Church Circle.

Speeding construction

Baker said the city will offer incentives, expected to be about $1,000 a day, for early completion of the second phase of construction, which will restrict traffic to one direction toward Church Circle for the first five months. The city hopes its marketing campaign will help businesses on the street during construction.

Economic development Director Mike Miron sums up the message this way: "OK, folks, we know there will be construction on the street, but that's not what's happening. It's the whole renewal of the West Street sector. ... We have this revitalization area that is starting to take shape.

Park Place, the $150 million project planned along Westgate Circle, had stalled in recent months as developer Jerry Parks searched for financing and tenants, Kramer said. But the developer is ready to move forward with demolition and excavation for the first office building and part of the underground parking garage, he said.

Holiday Inn-Historic Annapolis opened on the strip in April. Developer Phil Dunn's 20,000- square-foot office building is under construction at the corner of Lafayette Street. And the new headquarters of Severn Savings Bank, proposed for the end of Westgate Circle with retail space and a restaurant, is before the Planning Commission.

A request for proposals for construction of the city's Knighton parking garage is expected to in September and the city recently completed the sale of the four buildings on that property to West Village Corp., which is planning to renovate them for shops, a restaurant and residential units.

As part of the marketing campaign, businesses on the first block of West Street closest to Church Circle are holding events the first Sunday of every month. Next week will feature a farmers' market and live music. And a music store, Acousticopia, will hold its grand opening.

Arts district pondered

Miron said the city is exploring the idea of establishing an arts and entertainment district on West Street, extending from Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to Church Circle. The designation, which would require legislation by the county and the city, would grant tax incentives to potters, writers, musicians and other artists who work there.

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