Hotel, office complex planned; Annapolis officials praise proposal for homes, businesses


An Annapolis developer is planning to build a 225-room hotel, theater, office buildings and apartments along West Street -- an area that city officials and residents have long hoped would become an economically vibrant hub in the state capital.

City officials say they are thrilled with the preliminary design plans for the $101 million project that developer Jerome J. Parks submitted last week to the Annapolis Department of Planning and Zoning.

The project -- named Park Place -- includes the hotel, with a European-style facade; two buildings with retail space on the first floor and 232,000 square feet of office space; a 950-seat auditorium; 208 condominiums and apartments; and a 1,400-space garage.

Parks hopes to build it on a 7-acre site he owns, adjacent to the $8 million traffic circle nearing completion at West Street and Taylor Avenue.

Officials said they believe Park Place will provide a visual and economic boost for the West Street corridor, which was earmarked for revitalization more than a decade ago when it was lined with empty stores, dilapidated buildings and vacant lots.

"What's being proposed is the best-case scenario," said Susan K. Zellers, city economic development director. "The best quote I've heard about it was from a resident who said, 'I just wish I could blink my eyes and open them and it would be done.' It's exactly what we were hoping for."

Parks declined to comment on the project.

Jon Arason, Annapolis planning and zoning director, praised the project, especially its design.

"We always talked about the site as being a key site for the redevelopment of West Street," said Arason, whose department is reviewing Parks' plans. "We put in the circle there in the hopes that there would be quality architecture [nearby]. From what I understand, he went to Paris and took a bunch of pictures and that's what he gave to his architects."

In the 1950s, Annapolitans went to West Street to buy clothing and dine at expensive restaurants. But when nearby Parole Shopping Center opened in the late 1950s, developers began looking to the suburbs for retail expansion.

As the City Dock area gained popularity with tourists, its rowdy bars gradually were converted into upscale restaurants that lured diners away from West Street.

Then, 13 years ago, Annapolis drafted the Inner West Street Revitalization plan. But little happened beyond the Loews Annapolis Hotel opening there in 1990.

However, a healthy economy, low interest rates and the groundbreaking of the traffic circle last year have generated a surge of interest.

In January, a three-story office building at 151 West St. -- built on speculation -- was completed and rapidly filled with tenants. In April, real estate developer Ted Joyce announced plans to build a 124-room hotel at 176 West St.

City officials added to the development by purchasing a 37,000-square-foot plot at West Street and Colonial Avenue to build a 500-space parking garage.

Jim Martin, president of the Inner West Street Association, said Park Place will be a "dramatic help" to the street.

"We have been blessed with a couple of key developments that helped revitalization," Martin said. "But what Jerry Parks is doing is a dramatic statement on a much grander scale. Everyone who has looked at this has been excited by it, pleased by it and looks forward to it being completed."

Sandy Cohen, a member of the land-use committee of the Murray Hill Residents Association, whose neighborhood is near West Street, echoed Martin's sentiments and said residents hope the space will attract a grocery store,or pharmacy, as well as a venue for foreign films.

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