Main St. vacant lot back in limbo

Owner said to be offended by commission questions

Preservation panel had concerns

No application submitted despite project's approval


August 11, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Plans to turn the sole vacant lot on Annapolis' Main Street into a home and retail shops have apparently collapsed, according to the project's architect.

Crownsville resident Anthony Manganaro bought the vacant lot, which faces Main Street on one side and the State House on the other, for $1.6 million in March. He planned to build a residence on State Circle; two shops would front Main Street.

City officials were thrilled that someone wanted to refurbish a property that had become an eyesore. Everything seemed to be humming along until Manganaro and his architect, Chip Bohl, met with the Historic Preservation Commission for a preliminary discussion of the project July 22.

Bohl, who has practiced in Annapolis for 30 years, described the tone of some questions asked by commission members as "unnecessarily contentious."

He said Manganaro left the meeting offended and "feels like he can't go forward without substantive changes to the way the commission operates."

Bohl added, "There really weren't substantive problems with the proposal. It was all about attitude and demeanor."

"This project might come back before us, and it would not be fair to talk about it," said commission member Joan Kaplan.

Other commission members either did not return calls or declined to comment. Manganaro also did not return calls.

One resident who attended the meeting disagreed with Bohl's characterization of the meeting. Gregory Stiverson said the tone and style of members' comments were no different than those at other meetings he has attended since he became president of Historic Annapolis Foundation Inc. more than a year ago.

The property owner seemed to take offense when one commission member asked about a proposed curb cut - strongly discouraged in the Annapolis design manual - and another described the building as an Italian palazzo, Stiverson said.

He added that the commission later gave the project a green light, but Manganaro chose not to formally submit his application.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said she had high hopes for the property and was distressed to hear that Manganaro felt offended by the commission.

"I wasn't there so I cannot judge, but it's unfortunate that there were unnecessary words or the perception of an uncivil attitude," she said.

City leaders thought Manganaro's plans were the perfect antidote for a lot once known as "Hollander's Hole," after former owner Ronald B. Hollander.

In December 1997, a five-alarm fire destroyed the shops and offices at 184-186 Main St.

Hollander wanted to demolish the remaining facade of the nearly 100-year-old building, but his request was denied under historic district rules. In 1998, a storm knocked down more of the brick, and the city ordered what was left razed.

Hollander then put an orange fence around the lot, and weeds and trash accumulated. He cleaned the property up under city orders last year, but the lot had become overgrown again when Manganaro bought it.

Sun staff writer Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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