Original Published August 26, 2017
Frederick News-Post

By Mallory Panuska mpanuska@newspost.com

Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Dan Lawton hopes members will be ready to vote after one more workshop on whether to allow demolition of the historic Birely Tannery building for construction of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

The commissioners held their third workshop Thursday on the request, which stems from plans to develop the project at 200-212 E. Patrick St. The commissioners determined in July that the early 20th Century brick tannery building and surrounding archaeological site are contributing resources to the Frederick Town Historic District, thus halting immediate demolition plans.

The developers, architects and other project partners are tasked with proving demolition of the tannery is the only logical way to construct the hotel at that site and that possible alternatives to preservation have been exhausted. They must also provide an alternative plan for preserving the historic elements of the site.

Representatives with developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners, architects Peter Fillat Architects and Bates Architects, and Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, presented details of how they arrived at the decision to demolish the tannery, as well other alternatives that were considered and details about what actually exists at the site today during Thursday’s workshop.

Peter Fillat, principal of Peter Fillat architects, and Jim Mills, an architect with Bates Architects, went step-by-step through the four design options they considered, two of which kept the tannery building in place. In both, the project would lose vital parking spaces, they said.

In the preferred design, the tannery building is demolished and the site is used for parking. The project officials assured the historic elements of the site will be adequately preserved and promised to work through the process with the public and preservationists as the plans move forward.

The preferred design also includes full renovation of the historic Frederick Trolley building, which later housed the Frederick News-Post for many years. Pete Plamondon Jr., co-president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, said he is excited about the renovation plans and looks forward to further discussing the details.

Several members of the public also spoke during Thursday’s workshop. They included several people who have consistently opposed the tannery’s demolition because of its historic significance as what has been reported the last existing tannery building in the state. Several have also expressed fear that the city is on its way to becoming an undesired commercial hub with no history left. Others included Sen. Ron Young, who is a former alderman and the mayor who championed the Carroll Creek flood control project. Young told the commission that the tannery building would be “detrimental to the hotel” and would not work in its current spot.

The commission scheduled a special workshop for 6 p.m. Thursday to continue discussing the project and demolition request details. Plamondon said he and his partners plan to focus on the design and community benefit and impact of the project during the next workshop.

Lawton said he hopes the commissioners will be able to vote after that.

“After the rest of tonight and next week hope I hope to move toward a vote on demolition,” Lawton said Thursday. “That does not mean more work does not need done on the design. I just hope to keep discussions mostly to [demolition] until we get to that plan.”

The current design proposes a hotel with four floors and 180 rooms, roughly 20,000 square feet of rentable meeting space, and about 160 underground public parking spaces.

Aldermen to vote on Mt. Olivet rezoning at next public hearing

The rezoning of a portion of land inside Mt. Olivet Cemetery for a residential project is going before the Board of Aldermen at its first September meeting.

The request to remove an institutional floating zone from a 12.74-acre portion of unused land inside the cemetery at 515 S. Market St. is the first step toward the eventual construction of roughly 90 town houses and a senior living facility on about 20 vacant acres at the edge of the cemetery.

The city’s Planning Commission voted in a unanimous 5-0 majority in July to make a positive recommendation to the board to approve it and the aldermen held a workshop at the beginning of August to discuss the details. The elected officials seemed to come to a consensus by the end of the workshop after asking some questions about traffic and the land’s original medium residential zoning. They are set to cast their final votes at the Sept. 7 public hearing.

Several neighbors have opposed the project, citing concerns about increased traffic and density if the land is developed as proposed. Several have also said they plan to continue coming to the meetings where the project is discussed and voicing their concerns.

According to the plans, the developer intends to purchase a total of about 20 acres and has applied to remove the institutional zone on the 12.74 acres to build the town homes. The senior living building is planned for the additional 8 acres close to Interstate 70 and will keep the institutional floating zone. Developers have said the senior housing facility will be marketed to senior citizens making 60 percent of the average median income.

The cemetery dates back to the 1850s and contains roughly 150,000 graves. Historical claims to fame include the final resting place of Frederick resident and Star Spangled Banner Composer Francis Scott Key and a “Confederate Row,” where 700 Southern casualties of the American Civil War are buried.