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Much rides on results of Urban Land Institute study


Source: Capital Gazette

Whatever you think of the Annapolis penchant for hiring consultants and think tanks, there is no doubt that Tuesday’s big reveal of the Urban Land Institute Technical Panel could be a bellwether moment.

After Mayor Gavin Buckley came out strong for a redevelopment of the city’s waterfront heart that included a midrise hotel, better water access, an improved public space and removal of parking, Historic Annapolis committed to this study as a way to reach common ground.

The concerns expressed by HA President Robert Clark were largely about historic integrity of Annapolis. Although some of the arguments were a little thin, they effectively blunted Buckley’s first attempt at change downtown.

The findings of the study are supposed to represent a joint vision on how to move forward. But the study itself is an acknowledgment that something has to change.

It’s not just the poor use of space. The water is rising.

Sea level rise threatens Annapolis perhaps more than most cities in the United States. The city experienced on average 39.3 floods a year between 2007 and 2013, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a more than a 900-percent increase from the average 3.8 floods a year between 1957 and 1963.

But as a University of Maryland study pointed out recently, the current revenue the city takes in, nor its borrowing capacity will be enough to make the city completely “resilient” against the effects of climate change — which could include rising seas, more intense storms and uncommon weather events like droughts or flash floods.

And as a recent study — there’s that word again — determined there is no clear plan right now on how to make this happen.

In addition to historic integrity, sea level rise and public access — market factors have to be dealt with. Private property is involved, and the Annapolis Boat Shows are a part of the character of the city.

Figuring out how to piece these various factors together will be, ultimately, a political task. The way forward cannot be decided by the private sector alone, no matter how attractive the ideas were as presented Saturday by property owner Harvey Blonder and architect Peter Filat.

Redeveloping City Dock, and changing the way Main Street, Compromise Street, Market Space and Hopkins Plaza work will require convincing the Annapolis public that this long term reinvention will be worth the considerable effort.

When Clark and Buckley stand together Tuesday, their messages will be a real indication of whether Buckley is up to the task.

The sea level timeline cited by the University of Maryland study was 10 to 20 years. The clock started ticking years ago.

But Tuesday is likely to be a moment that will resonate long after the day is done.

To view this article on The Capital’s website, please click here.