Plans to transform part of a prominent downtown blight site into an interactive public art display have been called off amid growing safety concerns.
Artist Heather Clark confirmed on Friday that she will no longer pursue the art project planned for the pair of free-standing brick facades at 58-70 S. Market St. The project, known as Sky Stage, would have created a temporary open air theater and nature space behind the facades and was set to be unveiled in mid-May.
Clark and her project partner, the Frederick Arts Council, secured the necessary approval from the city Historic Preservation Commission earlier this year, as well as permission from the property owner to keep the installation through at least 2016.
A series of code violations issued in March for the adjacent building at 56 S. Market St. prompted Clark to reconsider. That building is owned by the same property owner, but was not included in the Sky Stage project.
“Because of the safety violations, we weren’t comfortable proceeding,” Clark said on Friday.
At least some items in the notice — structural and building maintenance problems — are not new. But code enforcement inspectors held off on enforcing them because of a pending development proposal that would have eliminated the problems, according to Brittany Parks, assistant manager of code enforcement for the city.
The condition of the site has remained largely unchanged since 2000, when the city approved demolition of the dilapidated buildings that once stood behind the facades. Several replacement plans and new projects have been proposed for the site, but never materialized, including the most recent plans submitted by Tarek Aly, principal of Suitland Road LLC, the business entity that owns the property.
Aly backed out of plans last year to transform the site into a two-building, three-story apartment complex with retail space. His announcement to pull the plug on the project came the day after the HPC voted to designate one of the two free-standing brick facades as a contributing resource to the Frederick Town Historic District. Aly’s project plans called for demolition of both facades.
Aly did not immediately return phone messages on Friday for comment.
Clark said she plans to relocate the project to another site in downtown Frederick. As of Friday, details of the new location were still being worked out and could not be shared, she said.