The Arrival of West Street

By Lauren Wiseman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Their petition drive was titled "Save the West Street Five." The group of residents, businessmen and the local alderman wanted to prevent the city of Annapolis from demolishing five dilapidated buildings on the edge of downtown in 2000 for a parking garage.

The petitioners prevailed, and today those now-renovated late 19th-century and early 20th-century buildings are spurring the continuing private and public revitalization of the West Street corridor, which stretches from Church Circle to West Gate Circle. The buildings were purchased in June 2002 for $300,000 by three couples, now operating under the name West Village LLC, involved in the petition drive. Four of the five buildings -- one was lost in a fire -- today house restaurants and retail shops designed to transform the outskirts of downtown into another destination for tourists and residents.

The latest addition, the sophisticated restaurant Metropolitan, at 169 West St., is housed in a sleek mini-skyscraper with a white-walled interior accented by a mahogany bar and a rooftop lounge with views of downtown. Also occupying the saved buildings are Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant; Astrid, a high-end women's clothing store; Object, a home goods gift shop; and beauty salon Hudson & Fouquet.

The West Village group's overall goal was to replicate the success of Tsunami, an Asian fusion restaurant on West Street near Church Circle that was opened in 1999 by some of the same business partners in an attempt to draw pedestrians to a part of Annapolis that had been relatively desolate, particularly after dark.

"Before Tsunami, people did not walk down West Street," said Jody Danek, one of the West Village LLC partners who purchased the five buildings. "But restaurants act as anchors. They get people walking."

Danek and his partners hope to bring a new identity to West Street, which has long operated in the shadow of Main Street. The West Street corridor now is filled mostly with pubs, coffee shops, specialty boutiques, art galleries, two large hotels and small professional offices such as law and accounting firms. But interwoven are many run-down and empty properties.

The West Village LLC partners have been joined recently in their revitalization efforts by Park Place, a condominium/office project on a 12.1-acre site at West Gate Circle. "We like the diversity on the street,'' said Gavin Buckley, one of the West Village LLC partners.

When finished, Park Place will combine luxury residences with high-end shopping, deluxe office space and a proposed performing arts center.

"We knew that we needed to have an anchor project to put redevelopment in place," said city economic development director Mike Miron, who has been a key player in West Street's redevelopment. "And Gavin and Jody demonstrated that you can have retail development in the central corridor and be successful."

Park Place will include 208 luxury condominiums with 24-hour concierge service and a health club, a 225-room four-star Westin hotel, two five-story office buildings with 145,000 square feet of space, and 60,000 square feet for boutique-style retail shops, cafes and restaurants. In addition to private parking for residents, there will be a 1,200-space public parking garage.

The first phase of construction, which includes the hotel, parking structure, one office building and residences, is scheduled for completion at the beginning of 2007. Already half of the condo units, costing between $490,000 and $1 million, have sold. SensorCom Inc., an engineering firm on Defense Highway, is is Park Place's first office tenant. The developers are still trying to raise public and private funding for the new performing arts center.

"We are not interested to compete with Gavin and Jody but rather continue their vision of West Street" said Jeremy Parks, vice president of development for the Jerome J. Parks Cos., the real estate firm in charge of the project. "They helped us to show the city and investors that Annapolis is not just Main Street."

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