Annapolis mayor proposes waterfront hotel, underground garage at City Dock
Date: Capital Gazette, January 18, 2018, Rick Hutzell
A waterfront hotel with underground parking is at the center of a plan to revamp City Dock revealed Thursday by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley.
With the National Sailing Hall of Fame inching closer to exiting City Dock for an old armory in Newport, Rhode Island, Buckley said he has been leading talks to redevelop the historic waterman’s home leased to the nonprofit and a privately owned restaurant and retail building next door.
Together, the mayor wants to see them become a boutique hotel he dubbed the Maritime in a partnership between the state, which owns the Capt. William H. Burtis House; Harvey Blonder, owner of the restaurant building; and the city.
The proposal includes space for pumps and the beginnings of a seawall seen as integral in dealing with increased flooding at City Dock, a relocated Harbormaster’s Office, a park called Lafayette Square — and the hall of fame, if it were to stay. But the concept will move ahead with or without the nonprofit, he said.
“I still think it would be a great revitalization of City Dock,” Buckley said.
In disclosing the plan to several hundred business leaders, legislators and others at the annual Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast, the mayor said he has spoken with Gov. Larry Hogan about the idea and plans to discuss it with County Executive Steve Schuh. Schuh and House Speaker Michael E. Busch were also at the event.
A spokesman for Hogan confirmed that he has spoken with Buckley about the plan.
Blonder, the Annapolis restaurant owner who recently lost a bid to operate the Market House for the city, confirmed he’s been involved in discussions of his property at 12 Dock St. Over the years it has operated as the Harbor House Restaurant, Phillips Crab Deck, Harbor Grill and currently is the temporary home of the Annapolis Yacht Club.
The yacht club will move back to its permanent home on Compromise Street once renovations after a December 2015 fire are completed later this year.
Blonder said the early plans call for a 100-room hotel, with 300 to 500 spots for parking in an underground lot. He has previously offered to incorporate space for the hall of fame in any redevelopment plans for the site.
“We would like to see it stay,” he said.
The city of Newport, however, is close to finalizing a deal that would relocate the hall to Rhode Island. The deal has to be approved by the Newport City Council.
Dick Franyo, a member of the hall of fame board of directors, lauded the plan offered by Buckley but said a vote by the nonprofit’s board on the move Newport is imminent and that members appear committed to a new location.
“It’s coming a little bit late, but who knows … a deal’s a deal,” he said at the breakfast.
The sailing hall needs $9.5 million to redevelop the Burtis house, but currently has less than $5 million. The armory in Newport will cost less than $2 million, and will need only modest renovations and comes with access to the waterfront.
Annapolis and Newport are both sailing cities, one calling itself the Sailing Capital of America and the other using the title of Sailing Capital of the World.
Bob Burdon, CEO of the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, criticized the city’s failure to act sooner and keep the hall in opening remarks at the breakfast. He said the moment was a failure that crystallized questions about the future.
“I think Annapolis needs to decide what it wants to be,” he said.
Buckley, who was elected in November, acknowledged that and said Annapolis will be looking for private partners to help the city achieve some of its goals.
“Our city does not have the best reputation when it comes to starting a business, and we have to change that,” he said.
The Maritime hotel proposal fits in with the City Dock Master Plan adopted by the city in 2013, Buckley said. It called for, among other things, a pedestrian-friendly promenade, converting 100 parking spots into green space and integrating flood management into an attractive, visitor-friendly design. Currently, about 56 percent of the area is used for parking.
Buckley said his goal is to offer $1 a day parking to employees of businesses, restaurants and shops to get their car off the streets. That has been a longtime goal of downtown residents.
The master plan, downplayed under former Mayor Mike Pantelides, played a role in both Buckley’s campaign and that of Alderwoman Ellie Tierney, who represents downtown Annapolis.
In an email Thursday, the Ward 1 Democrat said she’d discussed the idea with Buckley and, while she supports removing surface parking downtown, she is apprehensive about using underground parking as a solution for employee parking downtown.
“I am in full support of keeping (the National) Sailing Hall of Fame here and if there could be a maritime interface with Harvey’s building that would be ideal,” she wrote.
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