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Developer of complex pushing the pace; He wants hearing on $101 million project planned for West St.


An Annapolis developer proposing to build a $101 million hotel, theater, office and apartment complex along West Street says it's time to put the project before the public.

Jerome J. Parks said he has worked closely with the city and residents to make his vision of Park Place a reality. Project architect Doug Carter presented adjustments to the proposal -- based on city officials' concerns -- to the planning commission and board of appeals at a joint work session last week.

Park Place would include a 225-room hotel; two buildings with retail space and 232,000 square feet of office space; a 950-seat auditorium; 208 condominiums and apartments; and a 1,400-space garage.

In three sessions with community and city groups, "each time they've asked for something, we've produced it," Parks said.

"It's time for a public hearing," he said after last week's meeting. Parks submitted preliminary plans to the city's planning and zoning department in mid-October.

Judith Billage, board of appeals chairwoman, said the city needs to complete reviews of Parks' proposal before public hearings are held. The planning and appeals boards will hold separate public hearings, Billage said, but they are considering having Parks make one presentation to save time.

"Mr. Parks would like to move quickly, but I feel strongly that the city needs time to make thorough evaluations of the project," Billage said, adding that the hearings could be held early next month.

Parks needs approval from both agencies to move forward with the project. Building would be done in stages.

The development is proposed for a 7-acre site adjacent to the recently completed $8 million traffic circle at West Street and Taylor Avenue. Annapolis officials praised preliminary proposals for the project, seeing it as an attractive gateway to the West Street corridor -- an area that many hoped would become a vibrant hub in the city.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson said the location was once an industrial site. City leaders, he said, knew it had potential and wanted someone with vision to develop it. "It's been everyone's hope that it would be redeveloped cohesively and not split into pieces," he said.

Parks said his group has done economic studies that show a need for hotel, residential and business services in Annapolis.

"This is an exciting project for Annapolis," Parks said. "It's a combination of the city's needs, market studies and fabulous architecture."

At the joint meeting, Carter discussed revised plans to include a glassed-enclosed terrace off the hotel restaurant. He also addressed concerns about access to the plaza and street encroachments.

Billage said both agencies can attach conditions to approval of the project.

City officials have concerns about the hotel's entrance off the traffic circle, transportation access and economic impact, but the project has gained support from the community.

Brian Cahalan, owner of 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery, said small-business owners welcome the development and believe it would increase foot traffic on Inner West Street.

"We're really ecstatic about it," Cahalan said. "It would be really good to have that stuff going out there as an anchor for the rest of the street."

Erich Rose, chairman of the Ward One Residents Association Inner West Street Development Committee, said, overall, the community is in favor of the project.

"I think it's certainly a good thing for West Street and for Annapolis," Rose said. "But it's a big project and it's going to take time, probably more than the developer would like."

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