Presenting a re-imagined Memorial Circle in Annapolis

Danielle Ohl

Imagine the Memorial Circle intersection connected with Hopkins Plaza — goodbye traffic circle and hello “T” intersection at the bottom of Annapolis’ Main Street.

Mayor Gavin Buckley’s plans, shown to the City Council Finance Committee, propose just this, plus a partially bricked Market Space, a bandstand facing Ego Alley and a permanent Christmas tree.

From an April 28 workshop with urban planner Fred Kent, the mayor updated plans though the Memorial Circle redevelopment has been in the works since last month.

Architect Don Reithlingshoefer, who designed the Annapolis City Marina and Loews Annapolis Hotel, has been toying with connecting the circle to Hopkins Plaza for years. He presented it to Kent years ago, he said, who supports its pedestrian-focused design.

Reithlingshoefer has always been interested in the City Dock area, he said, and has evolved this plan over several years. Reithlingshoefer has worked for National Sailing Hall of Fame President Dick Franyo, who suggested he present the Memorial Circle plan to Buckley.

“Gavin loved it,” Reithlingshoefer said. “He asked if I could tweak it a bit with some thoughts he had.”

The mayor said he had Reithlingshoefer make changes based on recommendations from residents who participated in the workshop. Kent placed groups at Memorial Circle, Hopkins Plaza and across the street from the plaza, near Ego Alley. They came up with ideas similar to the ones in Reithlingshoefer’s design.

“I’m happy the community thinks the same way I think,” Buckley said.

The city is applying for a $250,000 grant from the state’s Community Legacy Program, aimed at providing local governments with money for projects that encourage “homeownership and commercial revitalization.” Buckley hopes the CLP will also help with The Cannery, an arts collective proposed for the site of the Harbour Square mall.

Taxpayers will not be paying for the Memorial Circle project, Buckley said.

One idea is to move the Kunta Kinte memorial closer to Ego Alley. Buckley said he has not talked to the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation.

At the Finance Committee meeting, Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson pushed back on any alternate placement, as it would disrupt the memorial’s deliberate orientation to the Compass Rose marker, which points true north. Chairman Ross Arnett said the proposal is “exciting” but needs time for input from businesses and residents.

The mock-up Buckley presented somewhat reflects a proposal in the 2013 City Dock Master Plan. The plan proposes creating a “T” intersection and connecting Memorial Circle to Hopkins Plaza. But the mandate is ambiguous because the City Dock Advisory Committee could not come to a consensus.

“The CDAC does agree that the intersection needs further evaluation to assess traffic operational and aesthetic concerns because of its central role, for better or for worse, in shaping the pedestrian experience and the opportunities for public space,” it reads.

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