They agree parking, historic preservation are issues that need to be resolved.
Frederick, Md (KM). A new Memorandum of Understanding regarding the proposed downtown hotel and conference center was discussed Wednesday night by Frederick’s Board of Aldermen and the Mayor. After a nearly four-hour discussion, elected officials agreed that parking and historic preservation are issued that need to be clarified with more detail before this MOU can be approved.
The Memorandum of Understanding outlines the roles of the city and the developer, Plamondon Hospitality Partners, in the construction of this facility. It will be located at the former News-Post building along East Patrick and Carroll Streets. In the past. Plans called for constructed 180 rooms, but that number has been increased to 199 rooms. Also, the city was to build the 22,000 square foot conference center but PHP will build it, along with the hotel. That reduces the city’s cost from $33-million to $17.-million.
Plamondon Hospitality Partners will pay all the costs of constructing the $55-million project, and the $7-million to renovate the former Frederick Railroad Building which once housed the News-Post. The city will construct the underground parking deck which will have 160 spaces, not 104 as originally planned. \
Parking was one issue brought up during Wednesday’s workshop. Alderman Ben MacShane raised that question. “So are we going to have a wildly successful conference center which is going to cause a parking problem? Or are going to have a 50-person daytime meetings and have no parking problem? But then we don’t seem to be injecting all the diesel fuel into the economy,” he asks.
“We have to understand that are going to be big events from time to time. But those aren’t going to be the dally events. The daily events are going to be much smaller than that,” Richard Griffin, Economic Development Director, responded. “Many of those events are going to happen on the evenings and on the weekends. And we have a lot of capacity in our parking facilities on the evenings and the weekends.”
Griffin also said this facility won’t be constructed if parking issues are not resolved. Peter Plamondon, Jr., with Plamondon Hospitality Partners, echoed similar comments. “We’re not building a project to be not successful. And if the lack of parking is going to help to make it not successful, we’re not interested. We have to collectively find a solution,” he said.
Another issue which came was historic preservation. The former News-Post building has some historical significance as it was once part of trolley system. But the Bierly Tannery, also located on the property, is slated tor demolition. But it must be documented before it’s torn down.
Scott Wynnette, a member of several historic preservation organizations, said mitigation of the property as mandated by the Maryland Historic Trust, is required in order to receive some state funding. But Wynnette says that requirement has been eased, possibly by politicians representing Frederick in Annapolis who support the project. “Someone for the first time in the State of Maryland. wrote in to the money coming for the project will not be reviewed by MHT,” he said. “This is the city of Frederick, one of the best historic districts in the country.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said the city will conduct mitigation on the property. “And we have stated publicly, and I will state it again, have every intention of completing with a mitigation agreement with the Maryland Historic Trust. The only thing that we are waiting for right now is for the state to get back into the negotiations with us. They have pulled out; not the City of Frederick” he says.
A public hearing on this MOU is expected to take place in June.
By Kevin McManus