City to consolidate offices

Annapolis workers and residents will benefit from Main Street site, city says

March 24, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Annapolis officials have agreed to lease the top two floors of a Main Street building near City Hall for municipal offices.

Come summer, several city offices will relocate to the former Hopkins furniture store at 123 Main St., effectively consolidating four city office sites into one building. The 10-year lease signed this month is effective July 1.

The historic three-story building, which was renovated in 2002, houses a CVS drugstore on the first floor. The upper floors total about 20,000 square feet.

The office of planning and zoning, information technology, central services, city clerk and city attorney will relocate to the space.

The economic development office, now on West Street, will move into vacated City Hall space. The fire, police and public works departments will stay in their current locations.

City spokeswoman Jan Hardesty said that decisions about which departments will go where are still being made, and that she expected the relocations to happen this summer.

With new flooring, air conditioning, windows and restrooms, the upper floors are ideal for offices, but the city will have to do some partitioning. Moving out of leased space at the four existing satellite offices on Main Street, West Street and Cathedral Street is a "win-win for the city," Hardesty said.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for the city," Hardesty said. "We will be consolidated to one campus and have much better work conditions for city employees."

Hardesty said the planning and zoning office, across from City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street, is cramped and cold in the winter. For residents, the all-in-one setup will mean that checking city records or obtaining a permit will be more efficient.

City employees will be able to use their current parking garage. The city spends about $150,000 a year to rent the off-site offices.

The 2005-2006 budget includes $1.9 million for the renovation and relocation plan and $2 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The city will have the opportunity to purchase the building in 2011, Hardesty said.

"It's a logical move," said Alderman Wayne Taylor, who represents Ward 4.

Tim Elliott, the city's finance director, would not comment on the finances of the deal pending a formal public announcement.

Lou Hyatt, the chief executive officer of Hyatt Commercial of Annapolis, brokered the deal with the city. He also handled the deal that brought CVS.

Hyatt said the city had been eyeing the building for about 25 years; the building has been owned by the Hopkins family for more than 80 years. Hopkins Furniture closed in 2001, and Weston & Cameron LLC restored the structure.

In recent years, negotiations were difficult because the tax credits that were secured during renovations prevented the sale of the building for five years. He described the city as an ideal occupant.

"City government is scattered all over the place," Hyatt said. "As a citizen, if you walk in to see somebody, you had to go three and four places. It's all contiguous now."

The office consolidation is one of several projects under way in the lower Main Street area. Crews are completing work on the historic Market House, where 11 new tenants are set to move in next month.

Across Main Street, a jewelry store severely damaged by a fire late last year has been torn down. A new building is being designed, and two other retail businesses that were damaged were planning to reopen.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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