Annapolis officials launched yesterday a high-cost, high-profile project for the city's historic waterfront, asking the state to help pay for a $10 million renovation of City Dock.
"This is the mayor's top priority from the state," City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff said before he and Central Services Director Emory Harrison pitched the project to the House of Delegates' appropriations committee. "We've been thinking about sprucing up City Dock for several years."
The city is lobbying for the funds now in hope of fixing up the dock area before boats from the Whitbread Round the World Race arrive in Annapolis in April 1998. Local officials say the international sailing event is likely to pump $15 million into the city's economy.
The General Assembly must approve the request before the close of the session next month if the city is to receive any money in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The city administration hopes to spend $1.5 million in state and city funds on the City Dock project next year. It is the largest item in a five-year, $20 million capital improvement budget Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins released yesterday.
The administration also requested $300,000 to renovate the Wiley H. Bates High School, $150,000 to renovate the Stanton Center on West Washington Street, $200,000 for road improvements citywide and $1.6 million for projects at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in the next fiscal year.
The City Council must vote on the budget by April 30.
Securing the money could be the easiest part of the City Dock renovation project, however.
Already, alderman are using the same phrases that marked a bitter fight last fall over the scope of a reconstruction project for Main Street in the city's historic downtown.
"City Dock should be something that is inviting and that welcomes visitors and helps them enjoy and experience our historic city," said 4th Ward Alderman Shep Tullier. "Our dock area should be a pedestrian-friendly place."
He said the renovation project gives the city a rare opportunity to make one of its most crowded tourist areas more appealing to visitors. He said that he would support changing the landscape and moving parking spaces.
Last fall, downtown residents accused city officials of trying to turn their neighborhood into a sterile tourist zone. They also suggested that larger pedestrian gathering areas envisioned in the Main Street plan would invite sidewalk cafes and give downtown an amusement park flavor.
Alderman Louise Hammond, who represents residents of the historic district, said the City Dock plan would take years to implement and questioned whether the city was trying to rush the project into action.
"I doubt this could be ready by Whitbread," she said. "After what happened with Main Street, everybody's learned that you need to allow enough time for your planning process."
The first phase of the renovation would concentrate on repairing walkways in Susan Campbell Park at the end of the dock and shoring up the bulkheads, piers and pilings. The second phase would reconstruct the roadways and underground utilities from City Dock to Compromise Street and redesign the landscaping around the Markethouse, Market Space and Dock Street.
The administration wants the state and city to divide the $10 million cost of the project equally. The city and state also would split the start-up cost of $1.5 million next year.
Meanwhile, some aldermen criticized the administration for lobbying the General Assembly without first approaching the council.
"They're trying to get state money, and they haven't secured the necessary votes to ensure this is supported on the council level," said 5th Ward Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who chairs the Finance Committee. That panel will hold a hearing on the funding request in the coming weeks.