Annapolis Divided on City Dock Parking
As plans are being made for the transformation of Annapolis' waterfront, business owners and residents are divided on how much parking should remain.
Residents and business owners were at odds over how much parking should remain in and around City Dock when it's renovated.
The proposed City Dock Master Plan, presented at Monday night's City Council meeting, would transform the Donner and Fleet lots into public spaces and reduce the parking near Susan Campbell Park. In total, about 90 of the 200 spaces found on City Dock would remain.
The basic idea is to make downtown Annapolis more "pedestrian friendly," presenter Chris Jakubiak said.
"For us business owners, it’s a simple equation: less parking means less customers means less revenues," said Gregory Guzzi, the owner of Guzzi Jewelers. "If you make it more difficult for them to come down and park, they will just go somewhere else."
The plan also recommends a promenade that would be 25-feet wide and wrap around the entirety of City Dock. The walk out to Susan Campbell Park—where Guzzi's business is located—would transform from a parking lot into an actual street with sidewalks and pull-up parking spaces.
Former Main Street business owner Roger Kizer Ball believes the proposed changes will draw more people downtown to experience the new space.
"You need to take advantage of all those people and turn them into sales," Kizer Ball said. "What the city should do is approve this plan or something very similar to it. I think the business owners will find a way to make increased sales off of this traffic."
Monday night's presentation marked the culmination of two years worth of work and meetings by the City Dock Advisory Committee. The next step for City Council will be to discuss the plan in committee meetings and bring it or a modified plan to a vote.
Jeff Schaub, who owns Marine Art Gallery, said he attended nearly a year's worth of committee meetings and still feels like his basic concern is being ignored: He doesn't believe customers will walk longer distances to patronize his store.
"The simple answer is that we are not Europe," Schaub said. "Americans, as we all know, will go to extraordinary lengths to park their cars as close as they can to where they need to be."
He also cited the mismanagement of the Market House as one reason he and other Dock Street business owners worry about this proposal.
"The years of unintended consequences with the Market House are absolutely stunning," Schaub said. "We don’t want to be the guinea pig that doesn’t survive the experiment."
Juliet Thompson, who chairs the Ward One Residents Association's parking committee, believes this plan would push customers into residential areas rather than city parking garages.
"It’s nice to say let’s put them on the connector and get them into Park Place [Garage], but that isn’t happening at the moment," Thompson said.
She and several Ward One residents called the plan an impending parking nightmare. The city already has 590 active residential parking permits for 460 residential spots.
Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) asked Jakubiak about potentially building a new parking garage, citing elements of the plan that call for increased development of the City Dock area—including the construction of a new waterfront hotel.
Jakubiak said he believes this could be addressed by building small garages into new buildings to service the needs of those buildings. He also said the renovation of Hillman Garage provides the city with an opportunity to add additional spaces by adding another story when the new garage is built.
Denise Worthen pleaded with council to "stop obsessing about cars and the parking." She said the city needs to shift towards a pedestrian friendly downtown.
"Stop thinking about how it can serve the internal combustion engine, and start thinking about how it can serve people," Worthen said. "It’s not going to be pain free, but on balance I think the potential benefits outweigh the potential costs."
The committee members who presented the plan also admitted to being divided about parking. Jon Arason, the director of planning and zoning for Annapolis, told the council repeatedly that he does not believe consensus will ever be reached.
"People have strong opinions about City Dock because it’s important to them," Arason said. "These are residents and business people who really care about City Dock and want to make sure it works."
Arason said he hoped the debate would make the plan stronger, but council will need to make a commitment to one parking vision.