Progress on plans to redevelop the old David Taylor Research Center site in Annapolis is steady, but final approval on what County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) has called one of the most important development projects in the county's history is still weeks to months away, county officials said.
The 46-acre project calls for seven office buildings and a 100-room hotel on some of the most prime real estate in the region: the banks of the Severn River, across from the Naval Academy and downtown Annapolis.
County planners are still awaiting input from various agencies that are reviewing the plans, said Betty Dixon, the county's land use and environmental coordinator. And while she said the developers -- Annapolis Partners of Alexandria -- will probably have to make adjustments to their plans, so far "the comments have been very favorable."
"It's moving along," Dixon said.
Bert Mason, the chairman of a citizens advisory committee appointed by Owens to review the plan, said the group gave the proposal good reviews.
"We were particularly impressed with the high quality of the landscaping and the signage," he said.
For years, U.S. Navy scientists used the center for submarine research. When it closed about seven years ago, the county feared the prominent property would become an eyesore.
After development plans are approved by the county's planning and zoning department, construction would take place in about three phases and take 12 to 15 years to complete, Dixon said.
Shopping Center Evolution
Speaking of construction, the developer that recently acquired the long-vacant Parole Plaza shopping center was to stage yesterday what county officials were calling a "demolition party."
While all of the old shopping center won't be torn down until later, county officials planned to stage a preliminary celebratory faux demolition by razing part of the facade of one of the buildings. Greenberg Commercial Corp., an Owings Mills-based developer, plans to transform the 32-acre site into a $400 million residential, hotel, office and retail complex called Annapolis Towne Center at Parole.
Plans call for 700 residential units set on top of retail shops. The plans also call for a 200-room hotel, offices and, possibly, a skating rink. In total, there could be more than 600,000 square feet of retail space and 120,000 square feet of office space. Construction should begin in about one year and is expected to take three to five years.
Nearby Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis is also planning an expansion. The proposal, if approved, calls for 270,000 square feet of new and renovated space that could include a large retail store, smaller specialty stores, restaurants and additional parking.
The plan has been in the works for a while, said Katy Dickie, a Westfield spokeswoman. And the company is aware that Annapolis Towne Center could soon offer a bit of competition.
"It's the company philosophy to continually invest and reinvest," Dickie said. "But certainly we don't ignore what's going on in the market."
Slavery Tour at Memorial
If you see people chained and shackled down by the Annapolis waterfront this September, don't be alarmed. It's the first stop of a slavery "reconciliation" tour in America that is being sponsored by Lifeline Expedition, a European company that has staged similar events around the world.
During the Annapolis stop, white people will be the ones marching in the chains as a sign of "their penitence," said Lawrence Blackshear, president of the Alex-Haley Kunta Kinte Foundation Inc. Behind them would be African Americans whose presence would signify forgiveness.
The idea is to spark a discussion about slavery and the present-day racism that it spawned, he said: "We should not forget our history."
The stop is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the City Dock near the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, the site of the slave Kunta Kinte's landing in America on Sept. 29, 1767. Kinte was an ancestor of writer Haley and inspired his book "Roots."