City workers thrilled with downtown digs

Annapolis agencies move to consolidated offices in renovated store

November 08, 2006|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,Sun reporter

Brian D. Snyder, the city of Annapolis' purchasing agent, now sees yellow garden roses out his window, an apt symbol for the new digs of six city departments and agencies.

The 20,000-square-foot space, with its warm wood floors, exposed brick walls and skylighted ceilings, is a big step up for Snyder and 70 co-workers, who moved from cramped, cluttered city offices spread across downtown.

In hopes of improving staff cohesion, communication and public service, the departments of Public Works, Central Services, Planning and Zoning, and Human Resources, as well as the Office of Law and the city clerk are now housed under the same roof, in the former Hopkins Furniture store on Main Street.

"It's a true downtown campus," Snyder said.

The city council and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer approved the consolidation project last year after years of searching for government property in pricey waterfront Annapolis.

The city invested $1 million in renovating the top two floors and will spend $300,000 a year leasing the site.

The city's lease with the property owners, the Hopkins family, allows an option to buy.

"We had to step outside the box from normal tight-fisted budgets, if we want city offices to be downtown," said Tim Elliott, director of the Department of Finance. "Everybody should be together and you shouldn't have to walk blocks if you're a resident looking for answers."

Emory Harrison, who as director of Central Services shepherded the project, retired Friday and did not make the move with colleagues.

The doorway to this prime real estate is at 145 Gorman St., in the backyard of City Hall and next to a Main Street CVS drugstore. Upstairs, city employees are unpacking 700 boxes of files, documents and furniture moved from an office building at 93 Main St., which held the largest concentration of material.

On Monday, Planning and Zoning officials met in one of eight plush conference rooms, a far cry from their old offices in a drafty old firehouse on Duke of Gloucester Street.

A sense of wonder reigned in the new venue at seeing Annapolis all around, from Main Street life to cozy houses and gardens. The city is, after all, the reason they are there.

Karen Steele, a legal assistant in the law office and library, pointed out that she can see across to the State House dome.

Marcia Patrick, assistant to the director of public works, came from a crowded upstairs office in City Hall, which is also in need of an upgrade. Now she overlooks a sunny view of bustling shops.

"Isn't it stunning?" she said. "I'm in shock, a good shock, after working here 18 years."

Some cannot get over the upgrade, roses or not. Said Snyder: "We're government."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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