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.