ANNAPOLIS — Once, if you wanted to start a business in Annapolis, you might have to travel to offices in three different buildings to get all of the right applications.
Need to do some plumbing or electrical wiring? Go to the second floor of City Hall.
How about a fire code inspection? Hop in a car and drive to the Fire Marshal’s Office on Forest Drive.
Now everything related to land use and permits is under one roof. The Central Permitting counter, a one-stop shop for applications, is open for business.
Mayor Josh Cohen said it might not sound like an earth-shattering concept, but it’s a major step toward helping businesses navigate the city approval process. It will cut down on the time and money applicants need to expend, he said.
“It’s all about making City Hall more user-friendly,” Cohen said.
The counter is on the third floor of the 145 Gorman St. building.
It took 11 months to retrofit office space and shuffle employees around. The moving expenses and construction cost about $268,000. Rhonda Wardlaw, a city spokeswoman, said $1 million was set aside for the project, putting it significantly under budget.
Customers will find the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs, Planning and Zoning and the Fire Marshal’s Office at the one-stop counter. City officials also have set up a single phone number: 410-260-2200.
Sean O’Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association, said the relocation is a sign of progress.
“I hope it helps them get their act together,” he said. “There’s been a problem in the past with departments not talking, but I know they’re trying to get their ducks in a row and trying to make it a little easier.”
The project was more complicated than it sounded, said City Manager Michael Mallinoff.
Officials had to figure out a way to sequence the move so contractors could reconstruct the spaces for new staff people and functions while keeping Annapolis government operational. The city leased office space at 93 Main St. for the displaced workers.
After the move, staffers from different departments are seeing more of each other, which helps strengthen work relationships, Mallinoff said.
The final phase of relocations will begin this spring. The Office of Law will move back into City Hall, into the former mayor’s office, and the mayor and city manager will move to the second floor.