West St. project hearings to begin


The plan to build a large-scale residential/commercial/entertain-ment complex on 7 acres at West Street and Taylor Avenue in Annapolis is undeniably big.

So, as the city begins the first series of public hearings on the project, the Planning Commission has taken the uncharacteristic approach of breaking the hearings into four sections.

The project, to be called Park Place, would include a 225-room hotel, two office buildings, a 950-seat auditorium, 208 condominiums and a 1,400-space parking garage. It would have a substantial impact on the city and the West Street Corridor - a residential and commercial sliver of Annapolis slated for millions of dollars in revitalization.

"We've tried to devise a schedule that would satisfy everybody," said Robert H. Waldman, chairman of the Planning Commission. "We've opened the doors to get input from everybody and make a sound recommendation to the Board of Appeals."

The hearings begin at 7:30 p.m. today with the developer presenting the project to the commission. The hearing scheduled at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow is for the city staff members to ask questions.

A third hearing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Saturday for public comment, and a wrap-up hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The hearings will be held in the city council chambers.

The seven-member commission will deliberate at the last hearing and prepare its recommendation to the city Board of Appeals, which must also conduct a public hearing.

The developer, Jerome J. Parks, needs approval from both agencies to move forward.

Parks and his developers have been meeting with residents and working with the city for nine months to make his $101 million dream into a reality. They have established a focus group of 20 residents and held two on-site open houses that 500 people attended, said Robert G. Kramer, a consultant for Park Place.

About 20 changes have been made to the proposed project based on community and city recommendations, Kramer said.

Developers plan to give an in-depth description of the project tonight and discuss how it fits in with the rest of the Inner West Street Corridor. They will also have a scale model of the project, which had been requested by some in the community.

The roadway between Westgate and Church circles has been slated for major renovations by the city.

More than $11 million might be allocated for road resurfacing and replacement of 120-year-old waterlines and outdated sewer system.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson has proposed in his 2001 budget spending $8.6 million to build a 500-space parking garage at the West Street and Colonial Avenue.

Waldman said he does not know how long it will take for the commission to complete its recommendations and forward them to the Board of Appeals.

Construction should take nearly 10 years.

"For a project this size this has moved through the planning process very quickly and very thoroughly," Waldman said. "We take these things very seriously."

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