REHABILITATING THE seven-block stretch of West Street between Church Circle and Taylor Avenue may be one of the most important public works projects the city of Annapolis undertakes.
If done correctly, the project will stimulate investment and development in an area that has many vacant storefronts and empty lots. To rush the planning to meet an artificial deadline would be a mistake.
As the successful redevelopment of nearby Main Street in the state capital demonstrates, knowledgeable citizen participation can enhance the design of public projects.
The citizens' committee that has been appointed to review the $13 million West Street redevelopment, including professional architects, engineers and developers, is quite capable of providing constructive suggestions.
However, it appears that city officials and the project's team want the volunteer committee to rubber stamp the current design and not delay it with criticism or suggestions.
In large part, Mayor Alfred Hopkins' administration is the source of the problem.
The citizens' committee was appointed late in the process. It should have been set up as soon as the design firms began their work.
As it is, a number of key points -- the treatment of the intersection where West Street meets Church Circle and a traffic circle at Taylor Avenue -- have already been discussed and decided.
The committee wants to reopen those decisions. Understandably, the design team is frustrated because it does not want to debate issues it considered resolved months ago.
Mr. Hopkins has a similar sense of urgency. He wants ground broken on the project this year, before the end of his second and, by law, final term. A superbly designed project that significantly enhances Inner West Street would be his most important legacy.
Indeed, the recent example a few blocks over on Main Street showed that delays can escalate costs. But the result was well worth the extra money. Annapolis residents will have to live with a redeveloped West Street for a long time, too.
If the citizen's committee can enhance this project, the time table should be revised to accommodate worthy contributions.
Pub Date: 4/02/97