The hotel and conference center project planned for downtown Frederick has had no shortage of critics as the proposal moves forward.

Among them are several historic preservation advocates, who have taken to social media and commented at recent city meetings to express their concerns with how the $82.47 million project has progressed.

Specifically, they cite a lack of opportunity for opinions from the local preservation community and experts. They have highlighted the need to reconcile developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners’ preliminary site design plans with city requirements for demolishing historic buildings and for new construction in the downtown historic district.

Preserving the past

Discussion of the property’s historic significance focuses on two structures — the trolley building facing South Carroll Street and the small, white tannery building at the back of 212 E. Patrick St.

Each provides key insight in the city’s history, according to Anthony Moscato Jr., chairman of the group Frederick Preservation Trust.

As the local terminal for the Frederick and Middletown Railway, the 1911 trolley building “represented a moment between the horse and buggy, the steam-driven locomotive and the advent of the automobile,” Moscato wrote in an email. Although the trolley building contains two modern additions, the original front remains from its incarnation as the Frederick RR Freight Terminal, according to Historical Society of Frederick County records.

The Birely Tannery building, too, provides insight into a key industry and employer in Frederick throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, according to a 1991 site report compiled by a Delaware history and archeological research company. At peak production in the early to mid-19th century, tanners in Frederick produced approximately 100,000 finished hides per year, according to the report.

Several other sites along Patrick Street that once contributed to the local tanning industry no longer exist, making the two-story brick building a remaining relic of the industry, and maybe the only one, according to Moscato.

Preliminary project plans and renderings of the downtown hotel and conference center slated for the site call for a reuse of the historic portion of the trolley building. The tannery building, however, is not included in these plans, indicating that the building may be demolished.

Left out

Project developers came under fire at a recent city public hearing for what some called a failure to involve local preservationists in the process. Richard Griffin, the city’s economic development director and chief spokesperson for the hotel project, maintained that the group hired a private preservation consultant for feedback.

But Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said that “having a preservation team is not the same thing as listening to local preservationists.”

Scott Winnette, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, agreed.

“Personally, I wish the five-year exploration of this project ... included a voice for historic preservation, but unfortunately it did not,” Winnette said at a public hearing Thursday.

Input from city historic preservation planners and commission was never sought, according to Winnette. Historic preservation planner Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy confirmed that her department’s staff members were not consulted on the project, apart from two informational meetings earlier this year.

While the hotel developers were not required to seek preliminary input before submitting applications to the commission, many property owners within the downtown historic district do, she said.

Other preservation groups, such as Frederick Preservation Trust, have felt disenfranchised, Moscato said. He advocated for the two groups to work in tandem, instead of opposition.

“Too often, the perception is that historic preservation and economic development are mutually exclusive. ... We disagree,” he said.

Moscato described the downtown hotel project as one that could have been a “collaborative gem,” representing preservation and development interests. The tannery, for example, could be creatively incorporated into the project as a meeting space, wedding venue, interactive museum or even a steakhouse restaurant as a tribute to its ties to the tanning and poultry industries.

By excluding local historic preservation staff and stakeholders from discussion and preliminary project plans, those opportunities were lost, he said.

Following the rules

The consequences of this failure to communicate and collaborate may jeopardize the project as it goes through the requisite HPC public hearing and approval processes.

Kuzemchak has repeatedly highlighted the role of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission in determining if and how the project can move forward. Demolition of the tannery will require approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, as will the new site design.

“My concern is that we’re making the assumption ... that this is just going to happen,” she said, referring to renderings and designs. “I don’t want people to see these pretty pictures and just assume that’s exactly what’s going to get approved.”

Winnette warned that if the commission finds that the tannery contributes historically to the site, it may be unable to grant a demolition request based on its guidelines. And with the site in the Frederick Town Historic District, design plans will be subject to stringent guidelines dictating everything from building materials to height, color and signage.

Based on preliminary renderings, Moscato wrote that the project would “absolutely not” meet design requirements of the downtown historic district.

Although the city is a key stakeholder in the project — Griffin coordinated recent efforts to seek city approval on a memorandum of understanding with Plamondon — Winnette pledged that the commission would review the project with the same scrutiny as every other application.

“There is no rubber stamp resting on this,” he said.

Kuzemchak noted the need for the city to adhere to its own processes.

“We tout the economic benefits of historic preservation, so let’s not talk out of both sides of our mouth,” she said.

The $82.47 million project cost includes a 200-room hotel with 24,000 square feet of conference center space with on-site parking, infrastructure improvements and a sixth city parking deck at the site of the old Frederick News-Post building.

The property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is currently owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(24) comments

cldeboin

Once the convention is completed, can we now have a Fillmore Western Maryland? Seems only far for all the amazingly talented, eclectic musicians; (of which I am one) !!

Hammer

Preservationists asked to be involved from the conception, asked to join the Hotel Advisory Committee, but were held out of it by Griffin and the Mayor. Several years of silence followed while preservationists feared they'd be left out of the process altogether. But it seems to be turning around. And the state requirements and the District requirements cannot be avoided.

jerseygrl42

while they object to a brick wall I object to $38.5 MILLION of our taxpayer dollars being transferred to plamondon and randall...this make absolutely NO sense whatsoever and should be KILLED...it is a very BAD deal except for the profiteers

kimberlymellon

Well over $500,000, public staff man hours and advocating for funding from the county and state, yet not a single effort made to clear the project with the HPC. There's an expensive lesson to be learned here by all.

sofanna

So much corruption and it keeps getting worse. Our town and county are nearly unrecognizable.

elymus43

Vote for an all new Mayor and BOA in the next election.

DickD

Historically it would not fit in, I am against it for the use of tax money. If Plamondon uses their own money, I do not object.

FreddyFred

This entire hotel project is a perfect example of how the City of Frederick works. The political elite, elected officials, developers, realtors, attorneys, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Frederick Partnership in one corner & the rest of us schmucks in the other. One set of rules for them, and another set of rules for the rest of us. I encourage everyone to watch the mayor & board meeting where they voted on this MOU. The mayor & board get their butts handed to them by the HPC member in attendance for no one including them in this... and then the Alderman have the audacity to criticize citizens who claimed this is the first they've heard of this. O'Connor appears visibly upset that anyone would even question this project. Clearly, if the city's own Dir. of Economic Development wasn't even consulting with his fellow staff and other responsible city agencies in any meaningful way, there is some massive communication problem at RANDY'S city hall. It's like they all live in a bubble and then get defensive and incredulous that any citizens show up and ask questions or express concerns about something. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Want to be really sickened? Look into who Douglas Development employs as realtors, their relationship with the Mayor and the special treatment they receive (some of the same crowd mentioned in comments above). I think they call it "the good ol' boy network". Your elected officials get away with this because of citizen apathy and low voter turn out. City of nearly 70,000 people... with about 70 of them paying attention to city hall's shenanigans.

Dwasserba

Late input is better than none. There's still state tax money involved too. But if we don't help the Randalls and Plamondons maintain and grow their empires, who will?

FreddyFred

[thumbup]

MAVRICKinc7

Why don't they grow their EMPIRES with their money, or could it be they can't borrow at the interest rates that elected government can borrow against, under the guise of Taxing Incremental Financial strategies that curent Frederick government is currently floating to underwrite the likes of the Randall family's land holdings and aspirations and Plamondons PARTIAL funding mechanisms with the City and their tax payers supporting the balance of the debt service needed to pay off the debt in the next 20 years for a project that serves no other purpose other than more gridlock in downtown Frederick?

You can make all the EXCUSES you want to make for poor government management of the public interest, BUT what INPUT are you refering to? What does the PUBLIC know of the years of PLANNING conducted behind closed doors by elected governance along with their special interest partners who get to publish their intentions WITHOUT the necessary details from which the PUBLIC can make informed decisions rather than guessing what the FNP and their Partners are hatching for yet another GOTCHA MOMENT based almost exclusively on a LIE to the PUBLIC...AGAIN?

Dwasserba

If this was addressed to me, the input I was referring to was that preservationists are speaking up about a project long in the works. Turns out they were *waiting to be invited*(??) The people who like this idea already had their own experts, sooooo there was no need to seek other opinions...I admit I didn't understand this thinking until my dog stopped chasing his tail to explain it.

gary4books

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

BlueDawn666

But Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said that “having a preservation team is not the same thing as listening to local preservationists.”...that makes no sense to me so what is the point of having a "team" if you don't intend to listen to them?
....ALSO..Donna is a realtor for Macintosh and Macintosh is brokering the deal for the downtown hotel project.
She should recuse herself from this and any board member that the received a campaign donation from Macintosh should also recuse themselves.

Just follow the money and you will find the truth.

DickD

Now, that should be an ethics violation and they seek to use County money.

MAVRICKinc7

It is an ETHICS violation by elected officials with ONLY an Ethics Committee or Comission relegated to pushing paper and pointy pencils around and empowered to do NOTHING about the corruption that is ALLOWED to go on in the ranks of elected governance, who have for generations preyed on tax payer dollars, and will continue to do so as this inner-circle of money managers dictate what will be done without public involvement. That's what make for the arrogance that elected governnace continues to use, much the same way as herded cattle are handled just before going to the slaughter pens.

KellyAlzan

So the Plamondoons cannbuild this modern motel in historic downtown with a modern parking deck. Nothing says pre-civil war like a parking deck.

But yesterday theres an article about how a developer can not demolish his deteriorating, extremely ugly facades.

bosco

The difference between to the two projects? The developer of the property with the old facades on South Market Street doesn't have the Plamondon$, Randall$, and politician$ with taxpayer fund$ involved in his project, however the HPC is all over him like a cheap suit. At the old FNP site, on the other hand, the Plamondon$, the Randall$, the politician$ with bag$ of public money are involved in the project and the HPC is nowhere to be seen.

I still say the downtown hotel project at the old FNP site is corporate welfare and I still wonder how much money the Plamondon$ and the Randall$ have donated to the politician$ who are pushing the project?

Cowell

Spot on!

BlueDawn666

Yeah none of this makes sense...unless you follow the money, then it makes perfect sense. That other developer probably didn't pad the right people's pockets.

On The Frederick Chronicles FB page there is a list of the development high rollers and stakeholders in the two conference center projects. The list displays the amount of money each gave to various and multiple Alderman candidates in the last City election cycle.

Rand Weinberg is on the Cohen FSK Holiday Inn Conference Center team .... and one or more of the Mackintosh folks are on the Downtown Hotel team.

At the time of the election (2013) everyone on this list was aware of both projects ... even if the public was not aware.

Also, Bert Anderson (Mr. Shab Row) and Senator Ron Young's landlord gave Dacey $250. Young is pushing for taxpayer dollars to assist his landlord with a hotel and parking garage next to Shab Row.

Ron Young's comment(s) that the downtown hotel will "connect" Shab Row to downtown Frederick (Market Street corridor) is patently disingenuous.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Frederick-Chronicles-489681077776883/

If this comment thing would let me post a picture I would but it doesn't, so hopefully you can see the list on the Frederick Chronicles FB page. You don't need a FB account to look at a page.

bosco

Thanks for the info, BlueDawn666, I will take a look at those links you provided. Like you said, follow the money. [wink]

MAVRICKinc7

SO, what is it about the FNPs policy of blatant censorship don't you get? When was the last time the public were allowed to ask hard questions of Ron Young, Karen Young or even Blaine Young and got a straight answer back? What is it about MAFIA MANAGEMENT protocols and principles that haven't otherwise been published an circulated for all to read and hold both up to the light of day and find they are both, one in the same?

We can follow the money all we want, but until WE connect the DOTS, all we have is just more speculation, innuendo and hypothetical reasoning that continues to be the wall that elected governance and FAMILY VALUES have had in place for decades and generations in Frederick and Frederick County and have no intentions of ever letting go of the power they are consumed, by any means possible, including the corruption we've witnessed for the past 5 years and decades more.

The major players, albeit a short list, have excluded public input or transparency that has been relegated to the BOTTOM of the BARREL, while flexing their muscles and FLOATING anything they want, no matter how many times elected governance is bought off and fiscal strategies the public plays no role in, except to show up at STAGED and SCRIPTED events that MAFIA MANAGEMENT principles dictate.

Is little Italy any different than Frederick and Frederick County governance except Frederick is all about white supremicist and not Italian landlords we find in most large cities, including Baltimore?

You would post a picture to make your point, were it not for the FNP censorship, that took place when they removed the comment PRINT BUTTON and went for market share in internet news advertisement (60% so far) through the devises of Monster.com that allow, to a certain point of what is acceptable or not, while managed by the FNP editorial staff, their powers of deletion and no means for the public to recall their comments except that which most commenters will eventually FORGET and have to start all over again from one comment site to the next and leaving the PUBLIC to stumble around, always wondering when the rug will be pulled out from under them AGAIN.

Dwasserba

The plot thickens

DickD

Laughable, when you put it that way, not in a funny sense.

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