Cohen said he's heard the criticism from preservation organizations and nearby residents. "I don't want to see skyscrapers," he said

Some aspects of the draft plan have wide support. These include pedestrian promenades, green space and trees, and cafe-style spaces, which could have tables and chairs for visitors to gather and enjoy the views.

The consultants also call for the city to address infrastructure, with projects to rehab the bulkhead and upgrade stormwater management to curb flooding that routinely shuts businesses. Annapolitans now gauge flooding by the height it reaches on the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial on City Dock.

City resident Mary Grace Stelzig said the draft is a good start, particularly in its goals of reducing automobile traffic and increasing pedestrian access. The prospect that redevelopment would bring more to do at the City Dock is appealing as well.

"I like to think of this as post-automobile world," she said. "Get people out of their cars and they'll spend money."

Some merchants agree, but not all. The parking proposal to remove about 100 of the 199 spaces around City Dock has struck a nerve.

"The customer demands the convenient and affordable parking," said Sean O'Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association. He said parking solutions must come first, lest shoppers flee to malls, plazas and the Towne Centre at Parole, where they can park for free.

Officials say they would try to make up for the loss of parking spaces. In the works are signs directing motorists to garages where spaces are available and where they can hop on the Circulator trolley to reach downtown.

Officials also are discussing what to do with the city's deteriorating Hillman garage behind Main Street, which has two years of service life left, engineering consultants have said. Costs to repair cracks and other problems could top $1 million; demolition and replacement would cost about $8 million.

Cohen, who envisions public-private partnerships for the revitalization, agreed parking is a troublesome issue. "The city has a burden to show it can do a better job of parking management."

The Ward One Residents Association is another group that worries about parking.

"When you close up those areas … those cars come into our neighborhoods to park," said association President Joe Budge, a member of the advisory committee for the master plan proposal.

Parking could be a factor in deciding the fate of one of the city's signature events: the sailboat show.

If new development reduces parking, show operators say, they won't have enough room for exhibitors and the thousands of visitors who attend. Visitors now park more than half a mile away at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium and ride a shuttle to the waterfront show.

"The amount of space is so reduced that the result is the amount of money we receive from the exhibitors will not be enough to cover the costs of putting it on," said C. Edward Hartman II, president of the U.S. Yacht Shows.

All sides say the plan is only a draft, and there's plenty of time for compromise. Cohen said he's confident the plan that's ultimately adopted will accommodate boat shows. Hartman is cautiously hopeful.

"Can this be worked out? Yes, it can," he said. "Will it be worked out? We don't know."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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