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What's Up Magazine

What Do You Think? How to Make Downtown Annapolis Vibrant

Aug 04, 2016 01:53PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Gary Jobson

Come take a walk with me up Main Street, around State Circle, over to Maryland Avenue, and, finally, up West Street. We will find a mixture of shops, pubs, churches, government buildings, brick roads, and plenty of examples of historic architecture. All very nice, but sadly, we will also find empty stores, dirt, confusing pedestrian traffic, expensive parking, and an underachieving downtown economy. The competition from nearby malls, shopping plazas, and other historic towns is intense. If Annapolis is to thrive, it needs to upgrade its image and functionality.

There have been many studies over the decades on how to improve downtown, and our vital City Dock (note my column in What’s Up? Annapolis, March 2016). There are many great ideas buried in these long-range plans. Unfortunately, it is rare that any of these concepts actually become reality. In the short-term, and at very modest expense, I have several common sense suggestions that would make downtown Annapolis more vibrant.

Let’s start with cleanliness. If every tenant (and landlord) were to take responsibility for keeping the area in front of and behind their own locations the town would be a lot cleaner. Too often I walk by smelly garbage bins that are left overnight, and for hours during the day. Why do people feel the need to spit their gum out on to the sidewalks and streets? It horrifies me every time I see a cigarette being cast out a car window, or flicked on the sidewalk. Gum and tobacco residue are particularly noticeable around the Court House.

On City Dock there is a bank of soda machines. It looks like a 1950s bus station. There are many places to buy drinks, but soda machines? I wish we could declare our streets “no smoking zones.” It is mighty annoying to have to breathe vile smoke when walking around town. The litter around outdoor dining areas seems to be prevalent. Frequent cleanup is in order. Many of our store fronts are tasteful and interesting. These stores draw you inside. But, there are a number of businesses that feature depression era motifs. A little creativity would certainly improve business.

Walking around on weekends can feel like anarchy. Motorists often ignore pedestrian zones and barrel right through. I have just missed being hit many times crossing West Street on Church Circle. Cars just run the light. How about some policing occasionally? Around Market Space, pedestrians seem to stroll across the circle or streets at random. How can drivers possibly anticipate every move? “Walk-Don’t Walk” lights would create an orderly system, and improve traffic. The grid lock chokes downtown. This is fixable.

Parking continues to be getting more expensive and rare. A parking garage behind the Green Street Elementary School would be a major improvement by easing congestion.

Finally, the City of Annapolis should work harder to streamline the process of receiving occupancy permits. I often hear this complaint from proprietors. Many a business has not survived due to government over-regulation and egregious demands. The city needs to be a partner and not a hindrance. Everyone needs to play a role. With common sense and a little work, downtown Annapolis could be far more vibrant.

What do you think and why?

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