Hotel Plan Begins Review, Approval Process

Press Release: June 15, 2017

This morning, Plamondon Hospitality Partners, The City of Frederick and Randall Family LLC jointly took the next step required to build the Downtown Hotel and Conference Center at Carroll Creek and a related new public parking structure at 200 E. Patrick Street.
 
The three parties involved filed the application with the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. This is the first step in the review and approval process. The Maryland Historical Trust will also review the plans.  
 
The proposed hotel incorporates historic architecture and industry. Plamondon Hospitality Partners plans to restore the historic Frederick trolley station building, which was used most recently as offices of The Frederick News-Post. Randall Family LLC owns the property, which is under contract to be sold as part of this project.

The trolley building started out as the Frederick Railroad freight terminal, which included a trolley line to Thurmont and Braddock Heights. After that, the building was an office for an electrical company. In the 1950s, it was bought and converted to use for The Frederick News Post, with fully operational offices and printing on site. The application includes a request to remove the press room that was added to the trolley station building in the 1960s.

The applicants are also requesting to demolish a building at the back of the property that replaced a structure that was one of many on the site of an operating tannery until the 1920s. A fire in 1909 destroyed all but a portion of this building, leaving part of the ground floor’s south wall. The building that replaced it later became a sales office for tanned products, and in the late 40s and early 50s, it became a poultry business, slaughter and packaging site. The existing building has been reconfigured since the 1950s and suffered another fire. Most recently, it was used for residential/storage until its current vacancy in 2009.
 
The proposed hotel plan includes architectural elements and space dedicated to recognize Frederick’s association with the tanning industry.  
 
The Smart-Growth-inspired infill development project is designed to be harmonious with and complement the entire Historic District in scale, architecture and function. It will address traffic flow to and through the area by adding access points on East Patrick Street with a connection from South Carroll Street.
 
The City is partnering on the project to build new public parking, approximately 170 spaces, which will occupy the foundation level of the hotel. The City’s part of the financial agreement is only for the public aspects of the development: parking and street improvements. Plamondon Hospitality Partners will build and own the hotel and meeting space.

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Downtown Walkaround: Carroll Creek businesses welcome hotel downtown

Original Published May 22, 2017
Frederick News-Post

By Mallory Panuska mpanuska@newspost.com

With the prospect of a downtown Frederick hotel and conference center back in the news with the reveal of its first 3-D design model and new visual images Thursday, it is the perfect time for several nearby business representatives to weigh in on the project.

And according to those polled Friday, the project gets a thumbs up from its neighbors.

The businesses along Carroll Creek Way are within a short walking distance of the proposed hotel and conference center planned for 200 and 212 E. Patrick St.

Sweeties Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt is one of those businesses.

Manager Nicole Endara said Friday the hotel would likely bring more business to the seasonal shop.

“I feel like it would bring business and more people,” she said.

John McCain, general manager of The Wine Kitchen next door, had similar thoughts.

“I think a hotel would be great for downtown,” he said. “Certainly the location would be great for Carroll Creek and the local businesses on it.”

He added that it would likely boost growth and tourism to the area not only with more guests staying downtown but by attracting more development.

“It would be great for the local economy,” he said.

At Windy City Red Hots on the corner of Carroll Creek Way toward East Street, owner Angel Miranda said he believes a nearby hotel and conference center would increase foot traffic to his business. The Chicago-style hot dog eatery is fairly new to the area after a January grand opening and relies significantly on foot traffic to bring people in.

“It definitely will be helpful. It should bring a lot of people down here,” Miranda said.

The new design for the planned roughly $80 million hotel and conference center includes is one floor shorter and includes fewer rooms than the most recent former rendering. It also had a plan for about 60 more parking spaces than the last rendering.

The project is planned to come to fruition through a public-private partnership with public money from the city county, state and private funds from developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners.

Like the nearby business owners, city and county officials, developers and architects expect it will boost the local economy by bringing new life to an area of downtown that has not seen much activity in years.

An historic trolley building, which housed Frederick News-Post operations from 1968 to the mid-2000s, is set to be rehabilitated into a retail area complete with a possible feature resistant and shops.

The historic Birely Tannery building at the rear of the property is set for demolition within the new design plans. Architects are tasked to develop a plan to preserve the historic elements of city tanning operations with the proposed development.

The design revealed Thursday will go to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission soon for review and approval.

Hotel plans improve with input

Original Published May 18, 2017
Frederick News-Post Editorial

It takes time to do big things. As Mayor Randy McClement observed Thursday, it has taken eight years to produce the latest vision of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

It’s been worth the wait.

The plan, sketches and model unveiled before a packed room at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center show a project that is coming together beautifully. In its scale, in its design and even in the financing behind it all, the revised proposal shows that developers have taken account of community feedback — and criticism — in refining the project.

The new design for the hotel and conference center would be lower — four floors instead of five — and it would have fewer rooms — 180 instead of 240. The reduced mass and height of the building will preserve views of Frederick’s iconic steeples, answering a concern raised by the initial sketches. And we are especially pleased to learn that the hotel will provide public access to the rooftop, for all of us to enjoy the views.

The new design shows thoughtful consideration of the project’s setting, in the heart of Frederick’s historic downtown, along the city’s centerpiece Carroll Creek Linear Park. Parking will be underground and out of sight. Lining the creek will be the hotel lobby, a restaurant and meeting space, bringing hotel activity right to the creek. The new design is also sensitive to how the building meshes with the streetscape along Patrick and Carroll streets, reinvigorating the historic trolley building on Patrick and providing street-level access to new shops and restaurants along Carroll.

Critically, public officials and developer Pete Plamondon, of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, have clarified the role that public funding will play in bringing this project to Frederick. What opposition there has been to the project has largely centered on the use of public money. Officials emphasized that no public money will be spent building or operating the hotel or the conference center.

Public money is still required — about $30 million from state, county and city sources. It will be used for “land acquisition, grading and site preparation, utilities, on-site public parking and related off-site roadway improvements,” according to a city press release.

That’s entirely appropriate. Most of the money would be generated by the project itself, so it isn’t being pulled from other uses. That public money wouldn’t exist without the project. More importantly, this project has the potential to be transformational for downtown Frederick. It would add momentum to development all along the creek and provide a vital link between downtown and east Frederick. It would help large local businesses that need gathering spaces. And by attracting thousands of visitors downtown, the hotel and conference center will bring cultural vitality to the city — and revenue to shops and local restaurants.

In supporting jobs, tax revenue and an active, attractive downtown, this is exactly the kind of smart public-private partnership that builds great cities like Frederick. It benefits all of us, the very definition of a public investment.

There is still more to be done, of course. Among other steps, the developers will need to work with the Historic Preservation Commission to ensure their plans meet city guidelines. We trust the HPC will work productively on the project. And the developers will need approval to remove a small vacant building on the site known as the Birely Tannery.

The fate of the Birely Tannery has been another flashpoint in the public discussion about the hotel and conference center. Plamondon said removing the Birely Tannery was necessary, but that element of the city’s tanning history would be incorporated into the project. Some of that was on display at the unveiling; the architect pointed out creek-side trellises that reference drying racks used in tanning operations. That approach, we believe, offers a reasonable compromise to honoring the city’s industrial past while building for the future.

At the end of the presentation, McClement called to the front of the room some of the people who have worked to push this project forward. It was a long line of public officials and community members, too many to mention them all by name here. But it was maybe the best part of the whole event, because it showed just how many people have invested so much time and effort in making this happen. With that kind of broad support, and with the willingness to adapt to community input that was shown in the latest plans, we are confident Frederick will get the downtown hotel and conference center it deserves.

Fewer rooms, more parking, new funding breakdown included in latest downtown Frederick hotel plans

Original Published May 18, 2017
Frederick News-Post

By Mallory Panuska mpanuska@newspost.com 

                                                                                                                                                                                               Staff photo by Graham Cullen From left, Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, state Delegate Carol Krimm, County Executive Jan Gardner, County Council President Bud Otis and Peter Plamondon Jr., CEO of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, mingle after unveiling of a model of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center on Thursday at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center. 

                                                                                                                                                                                               Staff photo by Graham Cullen

From left, Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, state Delegate Carol Krimm, County Executive Jan Gardner, County Council President Bud Otis and Peter Plamondon Jr., CEO of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, mingle after unveiling of a model of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center on Thursday at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center. 

The city and county’s contribution is expected to amount to between $14 million and $16 million, depending on final design approvals.

Maryland lawmakers passed a capital budget in late March that tentatively includes $16 million in grants for the project. Through that plan the project would receive a $5 million grant in fiscal 2018. Other amendments include a $7.5 million grant preauthorization for fiscal 2019 and a $3.5 million grant preauthorization for fiscal 2020.

The money is not a sure thing yet, as the state Board of Public Works still has to release the funds. McClement said Thursday that he is working out a schedule to determine when the board will hear the request.

Republican lawmakers have opposed state funding for the project and have said they will try to keep the money from being released.


Historic preservation

The architects plan to restore the historic elements of the Birely Tannery site as they move forward with the request to demolish the building. The next step is taking the plans to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, which architects Marty Bates and Jim Mills said should occur shortly.

Plamondon said the decision to remove the tannery building was not an easy one.

“We do not take the removal of the former Birely Tannery building lightly,” he said. “But it’s necessary as this location is the only feasible option for a full-service hotel in this economic climate.”

Officials hired Bates Architects roughly seven months ago to complete the design because of the Frederick firm’s experience and expertise in historic preservation and rehabilitation.

“We’re always interfacing with city offices, planning offices and the Historic Preservation Commission,” Bates said. “We know the players, we know the workings and we know the community.”

Bates and Mills said they plan to involve the community in future discussions about preservation of the elements of the tannery site to ensure the history is not lost.

They are also excited about the plans to rehabilitate the former News-Post building into a retail facility, which they hope will include a featured restaurant and shops.

The red brick building was constructed in 1910 and used as an all-in-one terminal, waiting room, ticket office and freight depot for the Frederick & Middletown Railway. The Potomac Edison Co. also had its headquarters there and operated a 17-mile stretch of trolley line from Frederick to Thurmont. The News-Post moved there in 1968.

“It’s a gem, architecturally speaking.” Mills said of the building. “We’re just bringing it back to life.”


A long-awaited
step forward

If all goes as planned, officials hope to begin construction by 2018, with a tentative 2020 opening.

The design unveiled Thursday was the first solid, detailed plan developers have released.

The plans have been in the works for roughly eight years, McClement said, and Thursday’s design reveal was something those who have been working on it have been anticipating for a long time.

McClement said that downtown Frederick is becoming more of a destination and a hotel of this caliber coincides perfectly with that. He and Gardner also thanked everyone who helped move the project along, including members of the Board of Aldermen, County Council, state Legislature, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Frederick Partnership, and Tourism Council of Frederick County.

“This hotel and meeting space will be the crown jewel and much-needed element to the infrastructure of our downtown,” McClement said. “I look forward to having everyone who is here today join us when we cut the ribbon [to open] this great facility.”

Gardner pointed out that the hotel and conference center are also expected to directly add more than 100 jobs downtown, with a potential to bring twice as many jobs across the region. The project will also boost tourism and development by attracting more people downtown.

“This project is about jobs. It’s about economic development,” she said.

Lawmakers made the right move by including funds for downtown hotel project in capital budget

Original Published April 5, 2017
Frederick News-Post Editorial Board

The passage of the capital budget by state lawmakers last week was a win for the city of Frederick and Frederick County. The $1 billion budget, approved by both the Senate and the House of Delegates by wide margins, included funding for the long-sought downtown Frederick hotel and conference center, a project that was put on life support late last year after key state funding partners pulled out.

The General Assembly approved amendments that secure funding in three successive grants — a $5 million grant in 2018 and two pre-authorized grants in 2019 and 2020, the first for $7.5 million and the second for $3.5 million. All members of the Frederick delegation voted to approve the budget, even though delegation Republicans expressed misgivings about the appropriation for the downtown project. Both Sen. Michael Hough and Delegate Kathy Afzali continue to express their largely ideologically driven opposition to appropriating state funding for the hotel project (Afzali referred to funding for the project in the budget as a “monstrosity”).

We have batted down opponents’ arguments against the project repeatedly. We find those arguments tired, hypocritical and nonsensical. Mostly a melange of hooey about “picking economic winners and losers,” “corporate welfare,” yadda yadda yadda. Governments for a very long time have entered into these kind of public-private partnerships to encourage economic development — whether it was the state of Maryland’s role in building the C&O Canal two centuries ago, or more recently, public participation in building Ravens and Orioles stadiums in downtown Baltimore. These kinds of investments can revive regions and cities dramatically.

The presence of a hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick, accessible by foot and emptying out onto the popular Carroll Creek veranda would be a boon to the city, to the county and to Maryland, drawing visitors, conferences and tourists from across the country and around the world. It would provide a significant bump to the downtown business district, boosting business and tax revenue and helping to attract even more capital to encourage the redevelopment of stubbornly underutilized parcels in the historic district.

The bulk of the $82.5 project — to be built at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St., at the site of the old Frederick News-Post building right on Carroll Creek — will be funded through private money by the developer, Plamondon Hospitality Partners, which would invest about $53 million to build the hotel and associated retail space. The public portion, totaling about $31 million, would be a hodgepodge of state, county and local funding, collected through the state grants, tax-increment financing, city payments and parking funds, and would pay for public infrastructure, the conference center, stormwater management improvements as well as a parking garage and other site upgrades. These features are all necessary parts of the project and fully consistent with appropriations for public projects throughout Maryland as we’ve argued before.

Will this project benefit members of the Randall family, some of whom own the parent company of this newspaper, and some of whom separately own the old News-Post building downtown that will be part of this project? Yes, it will, as we have acknowledged repeatedly. But that’s no reason not to do it. The Randalls one day will sell that parcel; if it’s not part of this project, it will be part of another. Will people oppose every project on that site just because the Randalls own it? That’s silly. That’s like allowing a group of people to oppose you selling your house to whom you want, or your farm to whom you want. That’s generally not how we do things in the American system of capitalism.

All the same, the appropriation is subject to a line-item veto by Gov. Larry Hogan, also a Republican. Hogan has not signaled which way he will go on the appropriation except to note that he will consider each line item carefully. Hogan is expected to either sign the budget or veto it by Wednesday. Nevertheless, our thanks to all the members of the county delegation, namely Sen. Ron Young and delegates Karen Lewis Young and Carol Krimm, who represent the city of Frederick and who recognized the importance of this project to both the city and the county. This is a project that promises to help transform downtown Frederick.

Downtown hotel plan to preserve history of Birely Tannery site

Original Published February 28, 2017
Frederick News-Post

By Mallory Panuska mpanuska@newspost.com 

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Staff photo by Bill Green            The Maryland Historic Trust has confirmed the historic significance of the Birely Tannery site on East Patrick Street. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Staff photo by Bill Green

           The Maryland Historic Trust has confirmed the historic significance of the Birely Tannery site on East Patrick Street. 

The historical uniqueness of Frederick’s Birely Tannery site is slated for incorporation into the latest proposed downtown hotel and conference center plans following a recent designation from the Maryland Historical Trust.

The trust announced in a Feb. 7 letter that the tannery building and archaeological site at East Patrick and Carroll streets belong on the National Register of Historic Places. The determination is based on results of an independent investigation into its historic significance.

Now, city officials, hotel developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners, and the Department of Housing and Community Development are collaborating with the trust to determine how to preserve the site as project plans progress.

Plans for the 207-room Marriott and 24,000-square-foot conference center are based on a combination of public and private dollars. Plamondon Hospitality Partners is expected to pay $53 million for the hotel portion of the project.

The Frederick Board of Aldermen, Frederick County Council, state budget funding, the Department of Housing and Community Development and other entities were initially set to provide the remaining $31 million for construction of the conference center. But some funding is up in the air, including the state’s portion.

The trust’s announcement about historic significance seems to disagree with a separate investigation that Baltimore-based consulting firm Kann Partners performed over a roughly seven-month period in 2016.

“The Trust does not concur with the preparer’s recommendation that the Birely Tannery building is not eligible for listing in the National Register,” the trust’s letter said.

Plamondon Hospitality Partners retained Kann Partners to research and facilitate applications related to historic preservation of the site.

The final report concluded the tannery building was ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places based on evaluation of its significance to local tanning operations. The consultants researched elements such as the historical significance of the site connected to events, people, design and information potential.

That initial determination spurred speculation that developers might demolish the tannery building for the hotel project. Patti Mullins, city public information coordinator, said the MHT’s designation does not preclude the tannery building from demolition, it simply ensures the history of the site will be preserved as the project moves forward.

In a Feb. 10 city news release about the designation, Donald Kann, president of Kann Partners, was quoted as saying that the trust “confirmed his assessment of the site’s important archeological context.” The release also said Kann anticipates working collaboratively with the state organization and other partners as the project moves forward.

Kann did not return three calls for comment.

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said the MHT was involved in the historic designation of the tannery building because the hotel project is slated to receive state funds.

“Whenever the state is involved in a project, it goes through the Maryland Historic Trust to evaluate whether something is eligible to be on the national register or not,” he explained.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission will also make its own determination about whether the tannery building belongs on the National Register. The investigation is independent from the trust’s investigation and has not begun, Griffin said.
A rich history

According to the trust’s letter, Frederick was a hub for the tanning industry in the early 20th century, with as many as eight tanneries in operation. The Birely Tannery was established in 1830 and operated until 1952. The current building was constructed in 1909.

According to the trust’s letter, after fully examining the building, researchers determined the building “retains sufficient integrity to reflect its association with the industrial history of Frederick.”

The letter goes on to say the site has “good subsurface integrity with intact deposits beneath fill, excellent preservation of material remains, and has demonstrated potential to yield important information regarding the development of the tanning industry through the time period.”

The letter says the site has 13 tannery-related features, including four tanning pits, one waste pit, stone paving and the remains of several structural foundations.

“The site still contains buried surfaces and features that survive beneath the various fill and disturbance actions that have occurred on the site during the mid to late 20th [century],” the letter said. “These newly discovered resources represent the site’s continuation into the project area, as expected, and contain an important record of the history, development and operations of the Birely Tannery.”
Next steps

Griffin said city officials, the developer, and DHCD will now collaborate with members of the trust and develop a mitigation plan for the project.

“The plan will determine how to mitigate impact, or to make certain the history of the site is not lost as the project is developed,” Griffin said. “It will make sure it is developed in a harmonious way with the history of the site.”

The next step is development of a site plan, which Griffin said is awaiting funding approval from the state.

“There are concepts out there about what this project is, but the actual design of this project is not completed because it’s a function of the budget,” he said.

The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post. The tannery building is at the back of the property at 212 E. Patrick St.

 

Digging for history

Original Published September 13, 2016

Frederick News-Post

Downtown Frederick Hotel: Preservation Update Meeting Scheduled

Press Release: August 12, 2016

Plamondon Hospitality Partners has scheduled a Downtown Frederick Hotel: Preservation Update public meeting for Wednesday, August 17 at 6:30PM at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center located at 40 S. Carroll Street. At the meeting, KANN Partners, the Preservation Architect on the Downtown Frederick Hotel Project Team, in addition to Dr. Mechelle Kearns, the project team’s archeologist, will provide a summary of the preservation related information learned about the project site to date. The public meeting also will include an opportunity for attendees to ask preservation related questions about the project.

Preservation findings will be provided to the City of Frederick and the State of Maryland as part of the project development process. The information gained will be used in evaluation and planning to develop the most effective approach to preservation, mitigation and interpretation of the historic property.

"The history of the site is important," said Pete Plamondon of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, developer of the Downtown Frederick Hotel Project, "and we are looking forward to sharing this information with the Frederick community." Plamondon added, "Our company is committed to a healthy preservation ethic, coupled with timely and open communications, in bringing this exciting project to downtown."

For more information on the Downtown Frederick Hotel Project, please visit www.downtownhotelatcarrollcreek.com.

Contact: Peter H. Plamondon Jr.
Plamondon Hospitality Partners
(301) 695-5051
petejr@plamondon-cos.com
www.downtownhotelatcarrollcreek.com

Downtown Frederick Hotel Project Archaeology to Begin

Press Release: August 10, 2016

As the various components of the Downtown Frederick Hotel and Conference Center project begin to take shape, an important element is about to occur. Over the next several weeks, archaeological testing will take place at the site. This work relates to both the Birely Tannery as well as the Frederick Railway Terminal Building, better known as the Trolley Building.

The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), a state agency, requested preservation and archaeology information for the Tannery, in particular, as its history is not well documented. This work is a first step toward many preservation activities and strategies required for the Downtown Hotel Project. To fulfill the state’s request as well as City requirements, application was made to MHT, the City of Frederick and the Catoctin & Frederick Soil Conservation Districts to allow the archaeology work to occur. The City’s archaeology advisor reviewed the plans, permits have been secured and schedules are being coordinated. Archaeology work will commence on August 17th.

"The public should be prepared to see activity on the site," said Pete Plamondon of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, developer of the Downtown Frederick Hotel Project, "and we're excited about this next step. A dig of this magnitude has not been completed downtown since the early 1990s."

The archaeology will be performed by Kerns CRM Consultants, who has completed projects in Frederick and throughout the state. Dr. Mechelle Kerns, owner and adjunct history professor at the US Naval Academy, will oversee the removal of surface material as well as perform archaeological testing, research and reporting. The excavations and reporting will employ procedures consistent with City and State preservation guidelines. It is anticipated that their fieldwork will take a couple of weeks to complete, weather permitting.

Once the fieldwork is complete, results of the testing will be presented in a report to Kann Partners (the Preservation Architect on the project team) for consultation with the State and City on preservation matters. These findings, along with the historic research and documentation of the buildings within the project area, will be used for evaluation and planning to develop the most effective approach for preservation, mitigation, and interpretation of the historic property.

Plamondon added, "We encourage everyone to come watch our consultants in action. This process will be fun and we're hoping to find some artifacts that will help us tell the story of the Tannery. Our consultants are industry experts. We're committed to a healthy preservation ethic and strategies that enhance our efforts in bringing this exciting project to downtown."

Contact: Pete Plamondon, Jr.
Plamondon Hospitality Partners
(301) 695-5051
petejr@plamondon-cos.com

Downtown hotel & conference center will be a boon for Frederick

Original Published May 22, 2016
Frederick News-Post

Anirban Basu, Baltimore
Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group Inc.

During ongoing discussions concerning the proposed downtown hotel and conference center in Frederick, a considerable volume of inaccurate information has been set forth. This information has been in existence for so long, it is now accepted by many stakeholders as sooth.

Falsehood No. 1 — Private investors aren’t investing enough in the project.

According to the Maryland Stadium Authority, the entity that successfully delivered Orioles Park, M&T Bank Stadium and the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center, the Frederick facility will cost $81 million to develop. Of that total, $50 million will be contributed by private investors that will be principally responsible for costs associated with constructing the approximately 200-room private hotel and retail space, including the historic renovation of the Frederick trolley building.
Public-sector project costs encompass $8.3 million for 24,000 square feet of public meeting space, $9.6 million for much-needed public parking, $1.7 million for design and inspections, $3.4 million for land, and other costs. Many of these expenditures largely benefit community stakeholders as opposed to the private developer, which both justifies public participation and renders it necessary for the entire project to move forward.
Some are opposed to the facility simply because the public sector is involved. But a meaningful fraction of Frederick’s resurgence can be attributed to successful public-private partnerships. One of the most visible examples of what public-private partnerships can achieve is the Carroll Creek Linear Park, with its landscaped fountains, promenades and pedestrian bridges.

Falsehood No. 2 — Frederick is doing well enough and doesn’t need the project.

Our firm, Sage Policy Group Inc., recently conducted an in-depth analysis of real estate dynamics in Frederick. In some areas of the city, significant commercial vacancy has become apparent and not enough private-sector jobs are being created. Though downtown Frederick is regarded as a runaway success story, a large piece of downtown remains underutilized and associated with sagging property values.
This is where the proposed hotel and conference comes becomes relevant. Any significant downtown business community requires a high-quality place for visitors to stay and for conferences to be held. This is particularly true in a community that is home to Fort Detrick, where security concerns may make holding on-base conferences challenging.
Other similar communities have multiple downtown hotels. A recent piece authored by a project skeptic indicates that Annapolis, about half Frederick’s size, is home to four downtown hotels. Lancaster and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, have five, while Charlottesville, Virginia, has three.

Falsehood No. 3 — The region is littered with similar facilities that failed.

Some have used examples of other facilities to argue against the proposed Frederick hotel and conference center. For instance, some have pointed to Rocky Gap as an example of why the project should be opposed. That is not a comparable facility. Rocky Gap is many miles from downtown Cumberland and has never been positioned to generate the types of synergies that the proposed facility will for downtown Frederick. Others have pointed to the Hyatt in Cambridge as another example of what can go wrong, but that facility includes 400 rooms, a golf course, a spa, incorporates 37,000 square feet of function space and encompasses 400 acres. It is a much bigger facility and, like Rocky Gap, it is also located apart from the nearest downtown, which likely limits its local impact.

Falsehood No.4 — Frederick’s taxpayers are imperiled

Here’s the most important consideration of all. Some project critics have asserted that Frederick taxpayers will be jeopardized. The memorandum of understanding negotiated by the city recognizes the fact that even the best laid plans can produce disappointment. Accordingly, the city has worked diligently to protect local taxpayers by requiring the hotel owner/operator to be fully responsible for all operational costs including any shortfalls — the city, county and state have no ongoing operational responsibilities and will provide no subsidies. Additionally, the city has added the state of Maryland as a capital financing partner. An independent MSA market study projects $1.5 million in incremental state tax revenue annually. Based on this estimate, the state can safely recover an investment approaching $20 million in taxable debt financing.

The city and county will participate in the form of a tax increment financing arrangement, with developer property tax payments used to pay off bond proceeds helping to finance the project. There are no ongoing public subsidies for operations. The facility will be privately owned, operated and maintained. Land will continue to be owned by the city of Frederick, with the developer responsible for paying annual ground rent. A portion of the net cash flow from the conference center will flow to the city.

In the final analysis, the city of Frederick has positioned itself to keep much of the project’s upside for Frederick’s citizens and has successfully deflected risk elsewhere. For whatever reason, some vocal stakeholders have chosen to remain opposed to the project, perhaps on ideological grounds, or simply because they have come to accept falsehoods as true.