As the gaps in West Street fill in, we see the buildings on Main Street empty out. What are we doing wrong when the main artery of our state capital can’t sustain retail for extended periods of time? The turnover rate is high with the exception of t-shirt shops and bars. To be clear, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all Main Street merchants who have tirelessly rallied for the city to this point, but every city needs to reinvent itself after a certain period of time to stay relevant. We need to move away from the Williamsburg model of focusing on the very distant past. I spend a lot of time talking to downtown residents and business owners. We do not see bus loads of heritage tourists spilling into the city crying, “finally, before I die, I’ve arrived in colonial Annapolis!” Our well preserved historic district with it’s beautiful fabric and scale is of course, one of our most important assets, but it should also be the backdrop for a variety of fresh ideas. We need new ideas to broaden the base of people who come to visit Annapolis. We should be on the radar for residents of DC, Baltimore and even Philadelphia for day trips. We need to create economic vitality. Bringing in new ideas does not mean you have to throw out old ideas, they can co-exist to celebrate and fully encompass all that we are and all that we have been.
Let’s give some of our amazing modern history a go. We are one of the most beautiful cities on the water and yet we don’t have a trace of an oysterman downtown or an outdoor destination to partake in an Annapolis tradition- eating crabs! We should be striving to be a gastronomic destination. What about focusing on our sensational music history? For three decades the coolest people on the planet came to Annapolis to play- from the Supremes to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown to name a few. The founders of Atlantic and Electra Records were inspired here while going to college at St. John’s. We have Travis Pastrana, the most famous freestyle motorcyclist in the world. We have an USNA alum, whose son is the most successful coach in football history. Robert Duvall, an Academy Award winning actor, went to school at Annapolis Elementary. We should tie in these modern pastimes and heroes to celebrate our city as a brand. Annapolis is in their blood. We can blame the landlords but we have to create the demand. We have to fashion a city for people who are still alive.
Note: Gavin Buckley is a candidate for Mayor of Annapolis. You can find out more at Gavin2017.