Run-down Main St. lot acquired by developer

Home and retail shops envisioned on property bought for $1.6 million

Annapolis

March 09, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The ugliest lot on historic Main Street in Annapolis - the run-down site of a burned-down building - has been sold and soon should be transformed into a home and retail shops.

"Instead of looking like there's a missing tooth halfway up the street, there's an opportunity," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said.

Developer Anthony Manganaro bought the vacant lot, which fronts on Main Street and State Circle, for $1.6 million last week and said he plans to build his residence there. He, his wife and their three dogs would join Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his family as residents of State Circle - the upstairs residential portion of his building would face the State House.

The lot slopes toward Main Street, allowing for a bottom floor of retail below the residence that would be exposed only on the Main Street side.

"I'm just looking for a change in lifestyle," said Manganaro, 60, of Crownsville. "I just want to live downtown. ... It's an opportunity to build something special."

For city leaders and Main Street merchants, the sale appears to mark the beginning of an end to a six-year vacancy on a lot once commonly known as "Hollander's Hole," after owner Ronald B. Hollander. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"We're delirious with joy," said city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty.

In December 1997, a five-alarm fire destroyed the former shops at 184-186 Main St. - India Palace, American Spoon Foods and offices for lobbyists.

Hollander pushed for permission to demolish the remaining facade of the nearly 100-year-old building, but his request was denied because of the stringent historic district rules. In 1998, a storm knocked down more of the brick, and then the city ordered the remains of the structure razed.

Angered by the delays, Hollander reportedly vowed not to rebuild until then-Mayor Dean L. Johnson left office. He put an orange fence around the lot, and debris collected.

"It got overgrown with weeds," Moyer said. "It got filled with trash, and it just got ugly."

In March 2001, Hollander put the one-tenth-acre lot up for sale for $1.85 million, but found no takers. The trash continued to collect.

Before Ehrlich's inauguration in January of last year, the city ordered the lot cleaned. Hollander filled the hole, removed the trash, planted wildflowers and put up a wooden picket fence. But more than a year later, it has begun to collect trash again.

Manganaro, who moved in 1995 from Bethesda to a water-view lot in Crownsville, said he often has walked past the patch of land and wondered what could be.

"I did that many times," he joked, "but my wife didn't have the same view."

Manganaro said he hopes to begin construction next year, after the lengthy process of approvals needed to build in the city's historic district. He has hired Annapolis architect Chip Bohl of Bohl Architects to design the structure.

Bohl said yesterday that he has made preliminary sketches but they are not yet being made available. He also said building sizes were not available, though the building will be 3 1/2 stories - 2 1/2 of which will be visible from State Circle.

The retail space, he said, will stretch 48 feet along Main Street and could hold up to three stores. He described the Main Street facade as reminiscent of the department store housed there in the early 1900s, with a pronounced cornice and large storefront windows.

"A very elegant department store," he said.

He said the State Circle side will fit with the other townhouse-style structures around it. The home will have three sections, which he described as "elements" or "masses."

"This is a very special opportunity," Bohl said, "first of all, to repair a hole in the fabric of the city ... and to build a building that is going to be very highly crafted, very carefully constructed and wonderfully appointed."

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