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City is hoping to lease offices


Annapolis residents might no longer have to trudge back and forth among four city offices to check city records or get a permit.

The Annapolis city government hopes to close a deal to rent the top two floors of the former Hopkins Furniture building on Main Street, said Jan Hardesty, a city spokeswoman. The lease would allow scattered city services to be consolidated in the renovated historic property a short walk from City Hall.

Several factors complicate the deal to rent the three-story building, which was renovated in 2002 and now houses a CVS drugstore on the first floor. The city would like to buy the building, but tax credits that were secured to renovate the historic property prevent the sale for five years, said Tim Elliott, the city's finance director.

"The city has to decide if we want to lease the property for five years and then buy it," Elliott said.

Hardesty said city officials are optimistic and that a deal "could be very imminent."

The city council set aside $1.9 million in its 2005-2006 budget for the renovation or relocation of city offices and $2 million in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Elliott said.

"Occupying the second and third floors of the Hopkins building would be the most cost-effective option for us," Elliott said.

Elliott estimated that the city spends $150,000 per year to lease satellite offices. Although he cautioned that the proposed move would not necessarily save the city rent money, he said it would improve efficiency and convenience.

Lou Hyatt, the chief executive officer of Hyatt Commercial of Annapolis, which has been seeking tenants for the building, said that he has been discussing the 20,000-square-foot property with the city for two months.

Hyatt brokered a deal in 2003 that brought CVS. If the city does purchase the building, CVS would continue to occupy the first floor for the extent of its long-term lease, Elliott said.

Municipal government offices outside of City Hall are scattered among four sites. The city clerk, city attorney and human resources offices are on Main Street. The economic development office is housed on West Street, and the information technology office is on Cathedral Street.

The planning and zoning office is crammed into a dilapidated former firehouse across from City Hall, on Duke of Gloucester Street. Hardesty said that the firehouse is very cold in the winter and that planning and zoning employees often cross the street to use the bathroom in City Hall.

The Fire Department, Police Department and public works office will not move, Hardesty said.

The Hopkins family has owned the building at 123 Main St., near the City Dock, for more than 80 years. The three-story building is between the Annapolis Cigar Co. and White House Black Market clothing store, and across from the buildings damaged by a major fire in November. After Hopkins Furniture closed in 2001, Weston & Cameron LLC oversaw the restoration of the building.

The upper floors are designed to hold offices, Hyatt said. They have new flooring, air conditioning, restrooms and new windows overlooking the harbor.

"The city would be able to consolidate there with room to spare," Hyatt said, although Elliott anticipated that the city would still need additional space.

Hyatt said that he has shown the building to many potential tenants, but added that a single occupant would be preferable to several small businesses.

"Moving the offices to one campus will make city government more effective and efficient for taxpayers," said Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, who represents Ward 6.

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