The centerpiece of Historic Annapolis, City Dock, has landed on a list that nobody wants to be on: America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation compiles the annual list to “spotlight important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.”
Annapolis was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1965, and since then has not seen radical structural change to the waterfront.
But a proposal by Mayor Gavin Buckley would rezone portions of the historic district for a mixed-use development. It would include a hotel that some believe would block downtown water views and cut off Historic Annapolis from its waterfront. Historians also raise concerns about stressing fragile foundations and ancient masonry.
Historic Annapolis President and CEO Robert Clark made the organization’s stance very clear:
“Historic Annapolis agrees with the National Trust that the Annapolis City Dock is threatened. Acquisition any proposal to upzone City Dock to mixed use in endangers a key part of what makes Annapolis special and it should be rejected.”
Historic Annapolis, Preservation Maryland, and the National Trust are all calling for “thoughtful redevelopment” of the city’s waterfront. Preservation Maryland even drafted a petition, which reads, in part:
Preservation Maryland is opposed to lifting critical height and bulk restrictions which have preserved the authentic, human-scale setting that defines Annapolis. Construction at this scale on the water’s edge threatens to eliminate the critical connection between the water and the city, creates untold environmental challenges and could invite further degradation of the historic district.
Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding explained, “We are not opposed to the construction of hotels or the thoughtful redevelopment of underutilized areas of the historic district – but we are adamantly opposed to poorly planned development and changes which could severely impair Annapolis’ robust heritage tourism economy.”
Mayor Buckley responded to the endangered designation by promising collaboration on future development. “We can reimagine City Dock together,” he said. “I’m here to find a way that we can do something better than making the best real estate in the city of Annapolis a parking lot.”
The good news is that the National Trust’s attention tends to inspire a turnaround in these vulnerable historic places. According to the organization, “Almost 300 places have been on the list over its 31-year history, and in that time, fewer than 5 percent of listed sites have been lost.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano