Keeping Our Capital City above Water

Imagine a visit to the Annapolis City Dock five years from now. If now continues unto then, that jewel of our capital city National Historic Landmark District — called “one of the most intact and authentic colonial towns in the entire nation” by Preservation Maryland — will be a parking lot that floods with ever-greater frequency.

    However if the latest ambitious vision comes to pass, City Dock will be a model of and for creative re-development, sensitivity to historic values and resilience to future flooding. 

     Getting to such a place won’t have been quick or easy. 

     Just last year, City Dock appeared at the top of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S.

     What earned our capital city that dubious distinction was a proposal to re-zone portions of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District, including City Dock. Preservationists panned that plan as one that would “damage the area’s quality of life and heritage tourism economy, as well as permanently diminish its charm and unparalleled views.” 

     Like that plan, efforts to re-envision and redevelop City Dock have generated lots of controversy and, until recently, not much progress. 

     This latest plan is different: In 2018 an urban land institute panel of experts developed a suite of inspirational ideas. These led to a Consensus Action Plan released at the end of October.

     It was developed as a collaboration between Historic Annapolis and the city. Ninety-two members representing just about everyone with an interest in the project made up the committee that did the work.

     Earlier efforts involved consultants working with city administrators. This time everyone had an opportunity to express their hopes and fears. Most important, people are reported to be feeling comfortable that they have been listened to.

      If the plan is approved and implemented, your visit in 2024 will feature:

• Better water access for visitors and residents
• A continuous waterfront promenade 
• A new 68,000-square-foot park 
• A performing and visual arts venue
• Flexible spaces for local markets and seasonal events.
• The historic Burtis House docks devoted to active Bay use
• Historic educational activities
• Protection from flooding with elevated terraces and other deployable methods.

     Some parking will remain on City Dock, but most parking will be located in a rebuilt Hillman Garage, the first step in the Action Plan, on city streets and in other more distant garages.

     The big ticket is for the physical changes in City Dock, estimated to cost in the $50 million range. Funding discussions among the city, the governor’s office and the legislature are expected to begin in the months ahead. Some form of independent financing authority is being considered to support capital improvements that are beyond the capacity of normal local funding sources. 

     Meanwhile, over the next five years, Annapolis will become a better Chesapeake Bay Gateway.

     The aspect of the new City Dock will be managed by a partnership of Historic Annapolis, the National Park Service, the City of Annapolis and other partners, including the Chesapeake Conservancy. A new grant of $107,000 will provide better interpreting and connecting residents and visitors with Annapolis’ rich Chesapeake maritime heritage; improving public access to authentic cultural and natural resources and the Bay; and fostering stewardship of those resources by residents, visitors, organizations and the community.