Annapolis historic panel OKs plan to develop ex-hospital site

Upscale housing complex proposed for downtown

April 10, 2003|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

After years of community haggling and arduous review, the plan to redevelop the former hospital site in downtown Annapolis into an upscale 106-home community is poised to become a reality.

"We're delighted with the approval," said Russell Rosenberger, president of Virginia-based Madison Homes Inc., said of Tuesday night's vote by the Historic Preservation Commission, signing off on the developer's choice of building materials and exterior design for the Acton's Landing project.

The unanimous vote by the commission, which reviews construction plans in the city's historic district, frees the developer to pursue city building and grading permits. If all goes according to plan, the developer hopes to begin demolition this fall. Construction is expected to take about three years.

In May, the city's Board of Appeals approved the site design of the project, which includes a 79-unit condominium building, 14 townhouses and 13 single-family homes.

Tuesday night's approval marked the culmination of more than four years of work by the developer to redevelop the 4.5-acre site vacated by Anne Arundel Medical Center in December 2001.

But the plan - the largest residential construction project in the historic district in decades - was beset by concerns about density, the developer's construction record and a lawsuit by neighbors.

When the HPC finally cast its vote after reviewing project details for more than three hours, one member of the development team shouted "Bravo!" as others broke into applause.

The panel's decision came with few conditions, though members of the commission and a representative from the Historic Annapolis Foundation expressed concern about the use of unauthentic materials, such as stucco on the condominium building and a single-family home and other details.

"I do have grave concerns of this being a precedent for use in the historic district," said Bill Sherman, the foundation's director of conservation services, about the stucco on the single-family home.

In the end, the commission allowed the use of the stucco - though it required a finer grain - but specified that this was a one-time exception. The commission also allowed the use of a divided-pane window on new single-family homes and concrete instead of granite curbs.

With only three members of the public testifying - Sherman, a former HAF president and the retiring president of the neighborhood association - it was clear the project had come a long way from meetings a year or more ago, when the developers faced opposition from some in the public.

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