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The Annapolis Capital: Bozzuto to Build 30 Homes on Long Vacant West St. Lot

April 25, 2012

After nearly two decades as a vacant, grassy interruption in downtown’s commercial district, 213 West St. will soon have 30 new homes.

In July, Bozzuto Homes will start building 23 townhomes starting at $400,000 and five single-family homes starting at $680,000 at the former site of The Evening Capital’s offices. This comes nearly a year after the city agreed to allow development of the property without first-floor retail.

The former Darden’s Car Care building at 211 West St. was to be demolished this morning. Greenbelt-based Bozzuto has to remove that structure and receive grading permits to develop on the 1.8 acre site, said Bozzuto Homes Development Manager Stephen Alfandre.

It will take Bozzuto about a year to build the townhomes, single-family units and a duplex that will comprise Uptown at Murray Hill.

Alfandre said permitting and community input delayed the project. He would not reveal the construction costs, but said Bozzuto will soon start working on road and water infrastructure projects at the Annapolis site.

Bozzuto is the second developer to take a stab at building on the property, whose neighbors include Ruby Salon and the Lutheran Mission Society Compassion Center. In 2005, Madison Homes planned 40 condominiums, 7,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and seven single-family homes. That project stalled during the recession.

The site’s proximity to West Street’s commercial district and downtown makes it an attractive investment, said Alfandre. The property has been vacant since 1993, when the old newspaper building was razed.

“It’s about five minutes to downtown, yet you’re in the uptown district,” Alfandre said. “We liked it because it had character, community and walkability.”

Sean O’Neill isn’t convinced building homes is the best use for the West Street property. The president of the Annapolis Business Association opposed Bozzuto’s plans last year. He said downtown needs more Class A office space and 213 West St. would have been a good location.

While Bozzuto has only residential plans for the site, with homes fronting West Street, O’Neill said the property’s zoning allows commercial space facing the city’s main east-west artery.

“We were able to find a compromise and we’re eager to see more traffic on West Street,” O’Neill said.

High-end homes will fill a vacancy on West Street. They also give the city an opportunity to attract high-income residents. That is good news for the city’s tax base and its retailers, who prefer to operate in areas where the average income is $75,000, said Annapolis Economic Development Corp. CEO Lara Fritts.

“This project will help to stimulate the next phase of West Street development,” she said.