A little preventive medicine; Anne Arundel: Hospital board's plan for property will benefit the health of surrounding community.


A SIDE FROM people who have fond memories of the place, few in Annapolis are apparently mourning the imminent demise of the complex that has housed the Anne Arundel Medical Center downtown for the past century.

The eight-story building occupies precious real estate near the water but wasn't on anyone's list of the state capital's architectural gems. The structure, built 30 years ago, was a misfit between the quaint cottages surrounding it and the stately Georgian buildings occupied by state government just blocks away.

The Anne Arundel Health Systems board has chosen to replace the building and adjacent garage with a 139-home development called the Villages of Annapolis.

Virginia-based Madison Homes was selected to redevelop the 5-acre site after the hospital moves in two years to a new campus on the city's outskirts in Parole. The only structure that will remain is a smaller building that dates to 1910, shortly after the hospital started. The decision to raze the main building was somewhat anticlimactic. Neighbors scored their big victory months ago when the medical-center board pared its list to residential designs over commercial ones.

All those plans aligned with the wishes of residents. They preferred homes rather than offices, which, unlike a hospital, would be dormant at night and on weekends. Last week, the hospital satisfied both community and aesthetic interests in choosing a plan that will replace the building and unattractive garage with high-priced housing. Some object to the density, but that's fitting downtown.

The hospital board deserves credit for listening to Mayor Dean L. Johnson, the Ward One Residents Association and the Historic Annapolis Foundation. All favored demolition. The hospital has assured that it will not leave behind a sore thumb when it relocates in 2001.

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