Frederick’s proposed downtown hotel and conference center will have fewer rooms, more parking spaces and a new plan for splitting public and private funds, according to the latest design.
Developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners joined architects with Bates Architects and several state, county and city officials and unveiled a 3-D design model and renderings of the project to an excited crowd Thursday at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center.
The multimillion-dollar hotel and conference center is planned for 200 and 212 E. Patrick St., which is the site of the former Frederick News-Post building and the historic Birely Tannery.
The design unveiled Thursday proposes four floors with 180 rooms, roughly 20,000 square feet of rentable meeting space, and about 160 underground parking spaces, which Pete Plamondon Jr., the co-president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, said will all be public.
It also includes improved access from East Patrick Street, complete rehabilitation of the former News-Post building and demolition of the Birely Tannery building at the rear of the property.
Earlier renderings included five floors with 207 rooms and plans for about 100 parking spaces.
A new segregation of public and private dollars
Mayor Randy McClement and County Executive Jan Gardner proudly pointed out that the project, which will use public and private dollars should it come to fruition, no longer allocates any taxpayer funds for construction or operation of the buildings.
“The plan today clearly separates public and private dollars,” Gardner said.
The previous rendering and plan, which developers released in 2014, slated public money for the conference center, while Plamondon was set to fund the hotel.
The developers are set to pay for all construction and operation costs of the physical structures, McClement said, while the public funds will be used for land acquisition, site preparation, utilities, and on-site public parking.
Plamondon said the total price of the project is about $80 million. He pointed out that the number is still a budgeted amount and could change as the project gets closer to construction.
The city, county and state are set to chip in about $31 million combined in public money, while Plamondon is set to contribute the remainder.
The public funding is a combination of city payments and parking funds, tax-increment financing at the city and county levels, and state capital grant funding, among other public sources.
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.
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.”
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.