The mayor and Board of Aldermen are set to weigh in Wednesday on a document detailing efforts to preserve the history of the downtown site slated for a multimillion-dollar hotel and conference center.
The 200-212 E. Patrick St. spot has a deep industrial past that today contains only remnants of its glory days, remnants that project partners aim to preserve and showcase in the four-story, 180-room hotel, 20,000-square-foot conference center, neighboring retail building and courtyard planned for the site.
The project is planned to come to fruition with both public and private funds and includes full rehabilitation of the former Frederick Railroad building — which most recently housed the former Frederick News-Post headquarters — as well as demolition of the former Birely Tannery building along Carroll Creek.
The project partners — the city of Frederick, state Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland Historical Trust and project developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners — have been quietly tweaking a "memorandum of agreement" detailing preservation efforts for several weeks.
The agreement is set for public discussion for the first time Wednesday at a Board of Aldermen workshop.
The elected officials will discuss the details and provide feedback. Eventually, they will vote on the contents and, if approved, authorize Mayor Michael O’Connor to sign it on behalf of the city.
"[The workshop] is to make certain the aldermen are comfortable with it to eventually bring it to the mayor and board for approval," said Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development. "It’s an opportunity for the aldermen to ask questions and just really for us to provide an explanation for [the process]."
Members of the public can attend the workshop and future public meetings to offer comments as well.
"The purpose for coming to public workshop and to public hearing is to allow both elected officials and the public to participate in the conversation," Griffin said.
Representatives from the Maryland Historical Trust and Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as the developers, will also need to sign the agreement. Griffin said the process for those organizations is private, though.
Sara Luell, the director of communications for the Department of Housing and Community Development, declined to comment on the document in an email Tuesday. The email said department officials do not comment on existing contracts.
David Buck, the director of communications for the Maryland Department of Planning, did not return a call Tuesday for comment on behalf of the Maryland Historical Trust.
Once all the parties sign the agreement, it will go into effect, and efforts to preserve the site’s history can begin.
The developers are slated to provide the lion’s share of the total project cost, while the city, Frederick County and the state have tentative plans to provide the remainder.
As part of the demolition approval for the tannery building, the project partners were required to provide a plan to mitigate the loss of historic elements of the site. That, coupled with the project’s anticipated use of state grant funds, prompted the memorandum of agreement.
The draft includes details of the site's history, methods for preserving historic elements and plans for the archaeological data collected there.
The draft includes plans for a continued archaeological investigation of the site and documentation of the findings; a promise from the developers to display photographs highlighting the city’s industrial history — including the Birely Tannery — in high-traffic, publicly accessible areas of the hotel; installment of an interpretive display showing the evolving city townscape at the hotel roof level; salvaging a stone retaining wall in portions of Carroll Creek Park; and public art.
The document also includes broad outlines for a public interpretation initiative at the site that would include educational programs, interactive displays, historic artifacts and brochures.
The mitigation efforts are running parallel to the project design plans and site plan, which are respectively moving through the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission.