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Annapolis launches another attempt to chart the future. This time could be different.


Source: Capital Gazette, Capital Gazette Editorial Board

Wednesday night, the Annapolis City Dock Action Committee will kick off a months-long effort to answer the ancient riddle of Annapolis.

What should the future of City Dock and downtown look like?

A first reaction could easily be: Eh, another study. This is at least the sixth time a study of downtown has been inaugurated under the banner of progress since the 1980s. All previous results are widely forgotten.

We believe this time will be different.

Reason for optimism can be found in the most pressing problems identified by the Urban Land Institute through its fall summit: Flooding and parking.

If Annapolis doesn’t address increased flooding at City Dock, downtown will cease to be economically viable. The solution coming from Mayor Gavin Buckley involves shifting parking from City Dock into a Hillman Garage expanded through a public-private partnership, and then addressing the flooding through pumps and a floodwall.

That opens the potential for redesigning a downtown waterfront that is simultaneously resilient, aesthetically pleasing, respects the cultural landscape and powers small businesses and tourism.

A second reason for optimism is Buckley himself.

He was elected as a change agent, saying that he won’t deserve a second term if there is no progress at City Dock. By October, this action committee is tasked with leveraging the work of technical committees and presenting five things that can be done immediately and five more that can be done in five years.

That gives Buckley the progress he wants, and a plan to pitch to voters for a second term. He is highly motivated, then, to support this plan rather than let it slip into obscurity.

The mayor, in essence, created this moment. By proposing changes to zoning that would have allowed bigger buildings at City Dock, he precipitated a confrontation with Historic Annapolis that derailed his original proposal for a city-supported hotel.

But he found an unexpected ally in Robert Clark, the courtly head of Historic Annapolis. They now share a common goal — a vibrant, successful downtown — and asked the Urban Land Institute to help create a roadmap.

That effort brings us to the process that starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Moyer center, and the third reason for hope — Eileen Fogarty.

Fogarty is a legendary figure in Annapolis, the planning and zoning director back in the 80s and early 1990s who went on to help reinvent Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and Alexandria. She’ll lead the action committee, and given her record can be expected to deliver a plan on time and as advertised.

There will be naysayers and obstacles ahead, ego and disagreements. This is a journey worth taking, though, and all involved should be congratulated for taking this first step.