Future patrons of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center will have the chance to learn all about the lucrative tanning business that operated at the Carroll Creek site in the 19th and 20th centuries.
At least that is the goal of a “memorandum of agreement” being negotiated between the city of Frederick, the state Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland Historical Trust and project developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners.
The proposed four-story, 180-room hotel, 20,000-square-foot conference center, neighboring retail building and courtyard planned for 200-212 E. Patrick St. are set to use both public and private funds to come to fruition. The project also includes a full rehabilitation of the former Frederick Railroad Building into a retail facility.
The developers are slated to provide the lion’s share of the multimillion-dollar total, while the city, Frederick County and the state have tentative plans to provide the remainder.
As part of the project plans, developers will tear down the Birely Tannery building on the site, a request that did not sit well with local historic preservation enthusiasts and others concerned about the project’s impact.
As part of the demolition approval, 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 now circulating among the four signatories.
The agreement, which includes an addendum detailing what to do with archaeological data collected at the once-booming industrial site, is days away from a final draft, said Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development.
“Once all the revisions are in from the Maryland Historical Trust and Department of Housing and Community Development, the memorandum of agreement will be finalized, which we expect to have happen this week,” Griffin said Monday. “Then we will bring it to the mayor and board for a workshop and a public hearing to approve, and each signatory will approve and sign it.”
He pointed out that members of the public will also have a chance to weigh in on the documents’ contents at the Board of Aldermen meetings.
The agreement incorporates feedback from members of historic preservation, business, economic development, and other interested groups gleaned in private meetings with the signatories over the past few months.
The draft includes plans for a continued archaeological investigation of the site and documentation of the findings in an easily referenced format; 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.
The Planning Commission will approve the site plan, which includes traffic, parking, utilities and other infrastructure details.
The Historic Preservation Commission approved the first phase of the design of the hotel and conference center in November and will next address the second phase, which is more detailed. Last week, the commissioners discussed plans for renovating and rehabilitating the Frederick Railroad Building with architects and developers.
A FLEXIBLE COMMERCIAL BUILDING
The historic trolley building, which most recently housed The Frederick News-Post’s headquarters, was built in 1910 as an all-in-one terminal, waiting room, ticket office and freight depot to accommodate a track that ran through Western Maryland.
The adaptive reuse project will accommodate many of the historic elements of the building, and the Historic Preservation Commission must approve the plans.
Pete Plamondon Jr., co-president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, pointed out in the workshop the uniqueness of the project compared with the new construction of the hotel and conference center. He also explained that because the tenant for the building is unknown, the architects’ design is not geared to a specific user.
“I guess I just want everybody to appreciate, slash, understand that it has to be something somebody would want to lease,” Plamondon said in the workshop.
The plans, which architect Peter Fillat presented, include four design options for different numbers of commercial tenants on the ground floor. The second level would then be designed for residential or office space.
Fillat is the principal of Peter Fillat architects, one of two architectural firms working on the project. The other firm is Bates Architects.
The one-tenant option would gut the first level of the building, except for the significant interior structural walls. The second option would outfit the ground floor for two tenants, while the third would accommodate three tenants. The fourth option, which Fillat said is the preferred one, would turn the first floor of the building into a market.
“This is obviously our favorite solution, and this is really kind of what drives the building,” he said.
In any case, he said the architects are set on maintaining a level of flexibility for the building, as marketing it to preferred clients could be challenging.
Historic Preservation Commissioner Jessica Underwood said she feels “very strongly” about giving the architects and developers leniency with the renovations — within the confines of the historic district guidelines — because marketing a historic building to high-end retail tenants is not easy.
Other commissioners, as well as Historic Preservation Planner Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy, expressed concerns over some of the elements of the designs, namely plans to bring storefront windows down to the ground in place of the garage door openings.
Mroszczyk Murphy said the plans would change the character of the building, which the commissioners are tasked to prevent.
The architects and developers said they hope to be ready to bring the renovation plans to the commission for a vote at its next public hearing on Feb. 8.