Mayor Cohen Shares Coffee and Conversation
Jan 25, 2011 07:47PM ● Published by Anonymous
Altogether about 30 people snuggly fit into the charming book store, owned by Mary Adams and Janice Holmes, for coffee and conversation that covered such topics as the recently proposed Market House deal with Lehr Jackson, downtown parking, City transportation, and utility fee increases.
Though several brief moments saw one resident raise his voice in an effort to drive home his points of contention—notably his disfavor of the Market House deal currently being scrutinized by the City Council—the overall tone of the morning was relaxed and informational. Mayor Cohen even managed to elicit several rounds of laughter.
One resident voiced his concern about downtown “meter maids” who “wrote a ticket two minutes before my parking meter expired and she was extremely rude when I confronted her.” Mayor Cohen expressed the need for better management of parking enforcement and offered, “I’d like to see the maids be more cordial and friendly. ‘Hi, here’s your parking ticket, have a nice day.’”
Parking woes in the downtown vicinity were also discussed with the owner of one Main Street mainstay, Acme Bar & Grill, suggesting a shuttle line connect the City’s parking garages to a drop off point near City Dock in an effort to ease traffic concerns in that area. Others voiced their dissatisfaction with the many employees of downtown businesses parking in metered spots, which essentially takes away business from potential visiting customers. Mayor Cohen intently listened and expressed empathy towards those concerns. “We are working on improving transportation and parking throughout the city and have already made great strides with regards to the bus system,” he said, referencing the transition of bus routes from a “pulse system” to an “arterial system.”
A home owner with two similarly sized properties—one within City limits, the other in County—questioned why the price of utilities (specifically water) were about 2/3 higher in Annapolis proper versus Anne Arundel County. Mayor Cohen partially attributed the cost difference to the structural system (water works) and that the City’s is outdated, in need of repairs, and costs more to maintain.
On the more contentious subject at hand, the Market House, a City resident in the contracting business suggested that, “Under the proposed deal, the estimated rent revenue is $400,000, but with only 5,000 square feet of rentable space, the square-foot cost to rent for an incoming vendor is astronomical, about $80 per. But then you have to account for about 30 percent of that square-footage as being community space, and therefore un-rentable—walkways, bathrooms, and whatnot. So the numbers jump higher, about $115 per square foot to rent. I don’t believe there’s a merchant in town who pays that high a rate per square foot. How can anyone do business in there?”
The Mayor contemplated the numbers and continued the discussion saying the City Council is diligently reviewing the 30-year lease deal, which requires Council approval. He did not seem to indicate whether or not adjustments would be made, as terms of the deal were already agreed upon between the Mayor and Lehr Jackson’s company Gone to Market, LLC.
After the question and answer session wrapped up shortly before 10 a.m., Mayor Cohen chit-chatted with greeters and those who felt compelled to voice their concerns in greater detail.