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By Kymberly Taylor | Photography by Jenn Verrier and David Burroughs
Photo by Matt Ryb
The words “luxury home” and “marina” are not often uttered in the same breath. Indeed, most marinas are rather rugged, diesel-infused affairs, with heavy machinery, 12-ton boats, and utilitarian buildings scattered about. However, the home pictured here, with its custom millwork, diamond-white walls, and elliptical stair, overlooks a marina with a different aesthetic: the South Annapolis Yacht Centre, the first major development on Eastport’s Spa Creek in the last 50 years. Lined with terraces of natural grasses, Ipe boardwalks, floating docks, and 74 boat slips, the Centre has 11 residences to the east. To the west are boatyard and maritime businesses.
The refined ambiance of its approximately four- to nine-million-dollar homes and lush grounds reflects this once blue-collar neighborhood’s inevitable ascent to affluence. Behind the scenes here, you will find technology, creativity, and an acute environmental consciousness that reflects today’s concern for the Chesapeake Bay. This modern marina’s aesthetic is defined not just by a great view but also by the ability to stroll from one’s couch to one’s boat, “parked” steps away from the back door.
However, it was not always like this. Ten years ago, the site was occupied by the beloved but decaying Sarles Boatyard and Marina, circa 1924, and old Petrini’s Shipyard, built in 1947. Unfortunately, all businesses have a lifespan. Rusting pilings, faulty roofs, broken concrete, and tanks holding waste products buried underground signaled demise. With aging trees, eroding shoreline, and rogue grasses flecked with peeling paint, even the ground seemed troubled.
Fortunately, Bret Anderson, founder of Pyramid Builders and the force behind South Annapolis Yacht Centre, saw beyond the wreckage. Out of this wasteland, a picture arose in his mind: a mariner’s village, respectful of the environment and the architecture of Eastport, with spacious residences woven into the tapestry of a boutique marina, where residents could engage with Spa Creek and Annapolis’ historic nautical culture. To respect and honor Sarles’ historic presence, a replica of the original
The plan met resistance, and the days were arduous. “People wanted the space to be much more public. We created a marina because people who want to be here have some expectations; they elect not to stay at a public marina. We wanted to offer privacy, serenity, and security; to find that right balance was challenging,” reflects Anderson. Other waterfront communities in Eastport are gated and secured, so designing for privacy is not an anomaly.
Did he have moments of doubt? “I would say there were a lot of those moments in between… but never to the point of its wavering…. The obstacles, the challenges, the discussions here are too numerous to count,” says Anderson. One vivid memory does stand out: they removed 46 trailers filled with waste and toxic materials, he recalls. On a daily basis, clouds of dust, fibers, and dirt permeated the atmosphere and every surface. “It was a debris field,” he says simply.
Those days are over, and many good things are in place. Unlike most of the 50 marinas in the Annapolis area built over the past 20 years, the Centre is equipped with a bioretentive matrix. A ribbon of plants composed of hundreds of thousands of grasses, perennials, trees, and shrubs threads through the property, notes Kevin Campion of Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, the firm hired to mastermind the landscape design plan. Walnut Hill Landscape Company installed the plantings. “The plantings are deeply rooted and hold the stormwater. This creates an organic sponge designed to absorb 100 percent of the first inch of stormwater, the first flush where the most grime and pollutants run right into the bay,” he explains. Things were in bad shape. “This is the story of a tired marina that did not have the means to support the stormwater goals; the site was faltering and neglected,” he notes.
He has a point. Both Sarles Marina and Petrini’s Shipyard were built before the advent of critical area laws and strict environmental codes. “It was like a mini-superfund site, with trailer after trailer hauling away toxic waste products and materials,” recalls Campion.
The goal was to mitigate further damage and encourage clean water and soil renewal. On the street-facing side of the complex is an upland meadow composed of eastern red cedar, willow, and oak. “We wanted to create a strong neighborhood canopy quickly,” says Campion. Flowering trees and a sea of grasses anchor the soil and minimize maintenance. Swaths of grass connect all parts of the Centre and create a cohesive composition. In between each pair of units, plants shelter small wildlife, blossom, go to seed, and encourage winter interest, beckoning the visitor to interact.
A natural landscape teeming with plants and pollinators was always part of the plan, says Anderson. The idea for the Centre grew from his travels in South Florida and the Caribbean, where small villages, marinas, and nature co-exist in a cheerful yet organized chaos. “I saw how all these incredible entities worked in harmony: the marina element, the commercial, the residences…. If those can be designed and brought together in the right way, it creates not just a great setting; it’s a wonderful lifestyle,” he says.
Sarah Favrao, senior associate at ABS Architects, the architecture firm that designed the complex, understood Anderson’s vision, as did managing principal Jay Schwarz. Relying on his 30 years of experience in Annapolis, he had to “run the gauntlet of the city” and navigate complex, critical area permitting and zoning laws to bring the project to fruition.
Anderson and the team decided to paint the structures a timeless white with classic black roofs and trim, a dual nod to the coastal north and mid-Atlantic seaboard, the austere simplicity of coastal villages such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Also, the design responds to the Eastport vernacular, explains Favrao. “This was a town of bungalows, farmhouses, and fishing shacks. There is variety in the windows, roofs are pitched, and there are different roof styles: some gabled, others hipped.” Favrao sums things up this way: “Our way of responding was to honor the scale of the existing fabric and also not design things stuck in history… people want bigger closets, light, and view.”
In each unit, the classic and the contemporary merge. The many luxury appointments include oversized windows, walk-in closets, soaking tubs, and custom kitchens, Favrao points out. One of the interior designers, Roberta Nock of Bobbi Nock Interiors, worked with the homeowners on everything from furnishings and finishes to floors and hardware. Upon close inspection, there are subtle classical nautical details, such as the millwork you might see in a fine Nantucket home. The flooring is especially distinguished. “We used wide plank natural oak floors and turned boards to bring another element of design and warmth to each level,” she says. What makes the space exciting from a design perspective is the combination of white and bold colors. “We used white in the rooms with views of the water and bolder colors in rooms without the water views,” she explains.
Aside from the view, the element that makes the space truly stand out is the elliptical staircases connecting all three stories, creating an easy, carefree feel. “It draws you to want to keep exploring both upper and lower living spaces,” says Nock. Slightly formal yet contemporary, they banish any thought of a cliché beach home, thanks to Favrao’s vision for visually uncomplicated spaces that foster creativity.
Located at 750 Boucher Avenue, the Centre is flanked by many fine homes and renovated watermen’s cottages to the west. On the other side of the Eastport Bridge, residential waterfront complexes include Chesapeake Landing and The Tecumseh. Docks and boats are at the ready for homeowners. However, with its close proximity to the water and immediate visual and physical access to the docks, the Centre goes a step further.
Boardwalks encourage movement; there is a fine, nuanced order. For example, when lifted, all boat motors face the same way and are strategically half-hidden by pilings. The dwellings are distinguished by a balance of light, air, and proportion; these are the elements of all fine architecture, explains Schwarz. And this may be what is at work here: an unconscious golden ratio grounds the complex yet buoys the spirits, encouraging a deeper connection to the creek.
There is something more: the waterfront always brings surprises, and marinas have a habit of attracting the most unusual people. When you combine the two, life at the Centre is never boring. Boats of all sizes abound, with a classic Picnic Boat named Wine Down floating near a 110-ft. yacht called Summer Love. Clearly, adventure calls in a typical Eastport fashion.
ARCHITECT: ABS Architects, absarchitects.com, Annapolis, Maryland | CUSTOM BUILDER: Bret Anderson, Pyramid Builders, pyramid-builders.com, Annapolis, Maryland | LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Kevin Campion, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, campionhruby.com, Annapolis, Maryland | LANDSCAPE INSTALLATION: Walnut Hill Landscape Company, walnuthilllandscape.com, Annapolis, Maryland | INTERIOR DESIGNER: Roberta Nock, Bobbi Nock Interiors, bobbinockinteriors.com | CIVIL ENGINEER: Bay Engineering, Inc., bayengineering.com, Annapolis, Maryland | FLOORING: Installed by Elite Hardwood Flooring, elitehardwoodflooring.com, Annapolis, Maryland; fabricated by Burchette and Burchette | LOVE ARTWORK: Rachel Joy Perlman
© Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 13, No. 6 2022