A wrecking ball will soon tear into the boarded-up facade of the old Anne Arundel Medical Center, clearing the way for the largest development that Annapolis' historic district has seen in decades.
Demolition of the former hospital, which has been vacant for about two years, is scheduled to begin any week, said Alan J. Hyatt, attorney for Madison Homes Inc. of Northern Virginia.
Construction is expected to continue into 2006 on the planned 106-unit residential development, called Acton's Landing.
Madison gained control of the 4.5-acre site in November, bringing an official close to years of haggling with neighborhood activists about the particulars of the project. Activists said the project would clutter their intimate historic neighborhood, but developers eased some concerns by paring more than 30 units from the plan.
After years of negotiation, Hyatt said, the imminent demolition is "a great relief to everyone involved." He said the planned community will be "a major asset to the downtown area."
Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said, "Really, what it does is bring a lot of people into the downtown, within walking distance of our shops and restaurants."
Even former critics of the project say they're more happy than not to see construction about to begin.
"I think the way we feel is that the project is better now than when it was submitted for preliminary approval," said William Kardash, a member of the Acton's Landing Area Residents Monitor, a neighborhood group that battled the proposed development. "We still have some concerns about the density, but we took our best shot, and we came to a compromise."
Kardash said neighbors are eager to be rid of the hulking, vacant hospital building, which looms over streets lined with tidy houses and small professional businesses.
Before moving to Jennifer Road, the hospital was at the site from 1902 until 2001. Last year, the site bustled again when it was used for the filming of a John Travolta movie. But now, black boards cover the windows and grime coats the stone-and-brick facade of the building, which occupies a city block.
"I don't think anyone wants to have such an eyesore -- a big, boarded-up building -- in the middle of our neighborhood," Kardash said.
Hyatt said, "I think it will be a welcome change."
Madison Homes was selected by the hospital in 1999.