The Annapolis Historic Preservation Committee voted to allow the owner of the Factors Row property more time to stabilize the historic building if he promised to continue making repairs.
"What I’m most interested in is getting the property owner to accept these suggestions," said committee Chairman Sharon Kennedy. "This is the laundry list, and you need to agree to the laundry list, and then we have can a conversation about the timing of the laundry list."
The laundry list of suggestions is based on a letter sent by Mayor Josh Cohen on May 8 notifying Dana Florestano, the owner of 26 Market Space, that the building was in violation of the demolition by neglect provision of the Annapolis historic district zoning ordinance.
The letter stated that building had to be repaired or he would face fines and potential demolition. The deadline set for repairs to the building's exterior—which had been on the verge of collapse—is Sept. 4.
It's a deadline Florestano isn't likely to make.
"Technically we can’t change the mayor’s letter, which had a specific deadline," Kennedy said. "We are going to instruct staff to get in contact with the property owner and hold off on citations."
The committee's next meeting is Sept. 11, and at that time it's likely the deadline for repairs could be extended even further.
Florestano wasn't present at the meeting, but Eastport resident Bruce Gardner, who is converting the space into a new restaurant called Factors Row, attended the meeting. He said he believed Florestano was nearing completion on most repairs.
It's not the committee's goal to have citations issued when there is a good faith effort to make repairs, Kennedy said. In June, the gates blocking part of Fleet Street re-opened to vehicular traffic for the first time since April 13 after the stablization of the north wall reached a certain level of completion.
Lisa Craig, Annapolis' chief of historic preservation, told the committee that Keast & Hood Co. engineer Jon Tung, whose firm was retained by the city for inspections, has since signed off on additional stabilization efforts to the building.
Craig made an additional recommendation based on Tung's observations from his August visit. She asked that a gauge be installed on the north wall of the building and monitored over a period of no less than five years to make sure there is no additional movement.
"This seems like a very simple thing to do," Craig said.
She and Gardner also said painting the building could be delayed beyond the Sept. 4 deadline because Gardner wants to preserve the natural brick exterior.
Some of the bricks have softened with age and no longer prevent water from streaming in the building. The city is looking into what kind of stains would keep water out while allowing the bricks to appear unpainted.
Gardner also said workers replaced missing mortar on several parts of the building and that needs time to cure before a stain or paint can be applied.
The building, which used to be Riordan's Restaurant, has been vacant since 2007. Gardner has been working on transforming the space since 2010.
Gardner also secured a 90-day extension for replacing the building's windows. He said his manufacturer in Baltimore needs four to five weeks to create the replica windows once the city signs off on the designs. The contractor then needs an additional one to two weeks to install them.
"We have no problems spending the money, we are willing to do it tomorrow," Gardner said "We just need to get through the system."
The system is the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs which has yet to issue a building permit that would allow construction—including window replacement—to begin on the inside of the building.
The 90-day delay gives Gardner a one month buffer in which committee members emphasized that he needs to secure the building permit. Gardner said he's hopeful that will happen by the end of next week at the latest.
Craig said she would reach out to DNEP to see whether the window replacement could be placed on a separate permit so the building's exterior could be finished on time.
Kennedy said she is anxious to see improvements because 26 Market Space has such a presence downtown, and its deterioration in recent years has been depressing.
"It's been a long tortured process for all of us," Kennedy said.