Rising from the ashes

A new store, office space emerge 10 years after a fire destroyed two buildings in Annapolis' historic district

December 09, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

A gleaming new structure that will house a jewelry store and office space has emerged on the site of a five-alarm fire 10 years ago that destroyed two buildings that represented more than a century of history on Annapolis' historic Main Street.

The new building, which holds the addresses of 184/186 Main St. and 7 State Circle, has brought closure to the community, which witnessed long fighting over plans for the site and had been frustrated by the appearance of the vacant lot in the heart of Annapolis' prized historic district.

In keeping with the city's tradition of meticulously preserving its historic integrity, the developer has hired a historian to produce a time capsule of the building, the site of Annapolis' first department store, which opened in 1899.

At the time of the fire, the building housed India Palace restaurant at 186 Main St., where the fire began, and American Spoon Foods, at 184 Main St., which sold preserves, relishes and condiments.

"I kind of see this as a rebirth of sorts," said Ginger Doyel, the Annapolis historian who is heading the time capsule project.

La Belle Cezanne, the Annapolis jewelry store, which is at 117 Main St., will move to its new space on the ground floor of the Main Street side of the building sometime after Valentine's Day. A ribbon-cutting is set for March.

After the five-alarm blaze broke out Dec. 9, 1997, a protracted legal battle followed between the owner of the property and the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

The group sued the owner of the building to prevent him from razing the facade before an evaluation and without approval from the city Historic Preservation Commission.

In 1998, a storm knocked down more of the structure's brick, and the city ordered what was left razed. The owner of the site, Ronald B. Hollander, then put an orange fence around the lot, and weeds and trash accumulated.

The site was nicknamed "Hollander's hole," after the owner, and became a dumping ground for litter. He eventually cleaned up the property under city orders, but the lot had become overgrown again when developer Anthony R. Manganaro bought it for $1.6 million in 2004.

Manganaro, chairman of the Columbia-based Siena Corp., bought the property with plans to build a residence for his family on State Circle and two shops that would front Main Street. But the plans were initially denied by the city's Historic Preservation Commission.

The two parties eventually came to an agreement on the plans, which ultimately discarded the residence.

Construction on the three-story building, which has 14,276 square feet of space, began in July 2006. The building also includes an underground 18-space parking garage with automated valet service.

"Most of the structures on Main Street are fairly old, and trying to expand them and modernize them is difficult," said Craig Pittinger, vice president for development at Siena Corp. "So this is one of the rare situations that the entire structure is brand new, from the ground up."

The building has store-front space on Main Street and State Circle, making it attractive for retailers, Pittinger said. The remaining suites for sale can be customized as retail or office space, Pittinger said.

The time capsule will include a historical summary of the site, vintage photographs, architectural plans and newspaper articles relating to the site and the fire. It will be stored between brick columns that make up the outside of the building's State Circle facade.

Two other time capsules are planned, one for 25 years from its opening and another 50 years later.


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