Morning Brief: Annapolis Landmark Changes Hands

Steve Duffy and his sister, Kerry Duffy Doyle, have long made it a policy to know either 70 percent of the names of their clients or 70 percent of what they drink every morning. The couple and their coffee shop, the City Dock Cafe, sent a buzz through Maryland's capital city on Tuesday after news spread that the couple had sold the place.

City Dock held a special place for the residents of Annapolis, staff writer Ashley Halsey III reports this morning.

Steve Duffy, holding the door, and his sister tried to create a "Cheers" mentality at the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis, attempting to know most of their customers' names and coffee drink choices. (2003 Photo By Craig Herndon For The Washington Post)

But drastic change is not at hand. The new owners, Grover Gedney and his wife, Karen Johnson-Gedney, have lived in Annapolis for years and told Halsey that they will not mess with a winning formula.

In other Maryland news, many homeowners in the state will see the softening real estate market reflected in lower property assessments mailed out Tuesday, although the change won't necessarily reduce their tax bills significantly.

According to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, calculations performed this year showed that residential property values have dropped an average of 3.4 percent since those homes were last assessed in 2005. The dip comes after years of increases.

In Virginia, Arlington County's assessor has what passes for bright news: home values fell only 2 percent. Commercial assessments have actually ticked up by 1 percent.

Arlington's comparatively modest drop in the assessed value of existing homes surprised even some of the closest observers of the region's real estate trends.

"That's amazing. I'm not surprised that commercial is up one. I'm surprised residential is not down like 5 [percent]," John McClain of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis told staff writer Michael Laris. "Closer-in locations have a much higher premium than the ones farther out and are more stable."

County officials said more is at play than simply the accident of Arlington's location next to the seat of U.S. power.

Arlington County Board member Barbara A. Favola (D), who will be elevated by her colleagues to the position of board chairman tomorrow, told Laris that years of policy choices helped usher in large amounts of convenient commercial development near Metro stops in the county.

By Alejandro Lazo  |  December 31, 2008; 9:40 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch , Morning Brief
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