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Main Street's hour of need


The rebuilding of Annapolis' Main Street is now in its fourth month. The shopping district is a little dustier and noisier than usual. The sight of construction equipment disrupts the historic charm. The detours can be a pain. It is tempting to steer clear until the street reopens Dec. 1. But stay away from your favorite shops today, and they might not be around when the bulldozers move out. Already merchants say the construction, begun in March, has forced 25 percent of shops and restaurants out of business. The latest casualties: Be-Beep, a toy shop, and Why Knot?, a women's sportswear store.

Actually, navigating Main Street these days is not as much of a hassle as you might think. No one has yet figured how to make a bulldozer inconspicuous, but the Fort Myer Construction Co. of Washington has done a good job of minimizing the disruption. Newspaper photos convey the sense that the road is completely closed off, but pedestrians still can walk all the way from Church Circle to City Dock. As far as motorists are concerned, the street is closed only from Conduit Street to Market Space. From Conduit north to Church Circle, you can find a parking spot more easily than before they started tearing things up.

A shuttle runs from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to downtown all week; on weekends, the shuttle is free. For a price, you can enjoy valet parking at the city Market House. On weekends, you can park free of charge at several large state parking lots along Rowe Boulevard. The Gott's Court parking garage offers reduced weekend parking rates. On any day of the week, most merchants will stamp your parking ticket from either downtown garage, and you won't pay for parking at all.

Many people mistakenly believe that Annapolis is rebricking Main Street to make it prettier. That's not the case. This isn't just a rebricking, but a rebuilding. Workers are laying a proper road bed to stop buckling and sinking; they're burying cable TV, telephone and electric lines and upgrading water, sewer and gas mains. The project is to make downtown safer as well as more attractive.

But a beautiful new Main Street won't serve much purpose if Annapolis' business district dies before the work is done. That's why it's important to keep eating and shopping downtown between now and Dec. 1.

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