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Volume 15, Issue 33 ~ August 16 - August 22, 2007


A New City Market for Downtown Annapolis

Why shouldn’t Annapolitans shop city style?

by John Darby Alt

With nearly 1,000 additional downtown residents soon to be occupying Acton’s Landing and Park Place in Annapolis, it’s time we consider a downtown grocery. Requiring townsfolk to drive to Parole to get their household supplies misses a clear opportunity to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions — and it defies common sense.

The market I have in mind is a city-market designed and managed specifically for people who’d like to leave their car parked and get around as much as possible as pedestrians — or on bikes, scooters or people-movers (should Annapolis ever find its way to having something like that). Adding in agrarian principles, the City Market would encompass:

1. Food that is grown using organic or sustainable techniques, raised in humane conditions, infused with zero or minimum chemicals, and/or caught within sustainable fishing regimes.

2. Food that is grown or raised or caught or processed as close as possible to Annapolis and minimally packaged with recyclable packaging.

3. Proximity, so that residents can easily shop for food (and other household products) without driving a car: by walking, bicycling or motor-scooting.

4. Residents would shop with only one re-usable shopping bag, every day (or every other day) to purchase what they’re going to cook for a few meals at a time.

5. All of the above served up in the atmosphere of quality and conviviality characterizing other high-minded groceries, like Whole Foods.

Given the volume of grocery bags we typically unload from our cars, points three and four may seem implausible. If we’re not supposed to drive our cars, how are we going to get all that stuff home? The solution lies in the details.

City Market should seek a home somewhere along the Main Street-Inner West Street corridor between City Dock and Park Place. It doesn’t have to be big, and it won’t require many parking spaces, so finding the right spot is easier.

Wherever it might be, when you walk in the door, the only things you’ll see are the pleasure items of grocery shopping, the edible things you can actually see and touch to discern their quality and desirability: fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and eggs, breads, olives and relishes, fresh meats and seafood, flowers and spices and so on. The market doesn’t need to be big because these are the only items you’ll find inside. You’ll put in your re-usable shopping bag, every other day or so as you need them. Then you’ll carry them home over your shoulder or in the basket of your bicycle or scooter or wheel chair, which is why you won’t need to drive your car and why the market won’t need parking.

What about everything else? What about dog food, laundry detergent, cereal, paper towels, canned tomatoes and beans, cases of soda? Are you going to have to make a car-trip out to Parole or Hillsmere after all?

Nope. City-Market also operates a separate warehouse in a low-rent location you don’t ever have to see or visit. When you need to restock those bulky, clunky general food and household items, you simply submit a pre-printed, checked-off City Market Shopping List when you check out with your daily bag of fresh items. Canned soups, bags of sugar, jars of peanut butter and bottled water are delivered to your door the next day, free of charge.

Such a City Market is a city convenience long overdue in Annapolis. Anybody interested in putting one together?

John Alt, of Annapolis, is a principal in Alt Breeding Schwarz Architects and the founder of Village Technology, an urban solutions think-tank developing people-mover and parking strategies for downtown business districts. This is his first piece in Bay Weekly.

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