Parties involved in the downtown Frederick hotel and conference center project see funding in the state’s fiscal 2017 capital budget as cause for celebration.
But without confirmation that Gov. Larry Hogan will put the remaining necessary money in future fiscal budgets, the project may be delayed.
Maryland lawmakers added $1 million in grant funding for the project to the state’s fiscal 2017 capital budget last week. The capital budget is among a host of bills Hogan has said he will let become law without his signature, The Frederick News-Post has reported.
Lawmakers also gave pre-authorization for project funding in the next two state budgets — $7.5 million each for fiscal 2018 and 2019 — but there is no guarantee the governor will include that money.
Pete Plamondon Jr., vice president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, the project’s private developer, wants more than just a possibility of pre-authorized funds.
“At some point in the very near future, we’re going to need commitment for the full amount,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Without a written agreement in the next few months confirming the remaining $15 million of state funding, the 2018 completion date will likely be pushed back, he said.
Asked for the governor’s reaction to Plamondon’s thinking, Hannah Marr, deputy press secretary for Hogan, wrote in an email Wednesday that the governor’s office has not received any correspondence from the developer requesting this agreement.
The nearly $70 million project relies on a combination of public and private funding. About $44 million of that cost will be paid by the developer of the attached full-service hotel. The rest would be a combination of city, county and state funding.
Prior to the start of the 2016 General Assembly, project partners planned to secure state funding through a Maryland Stadium Authority bond bill. The $1 million included in the fiscal 2017 capital budget was a workaround developed after the bond bill never reached a vote in House and Senate committees.
State funding was also requested in fiscal 2016. The $40.8 billion budget approved did not include even a part of the $15 million requested, putting certain project components on hold.
Even when faced with further delays, Plamondon said, his company was still committed to seeing the project through.
Asked if the potential for more delays could hurt any of the project components, Plamondon replied: “Absolutely not.”
“I am not deterred at all by a delay,” he said. “We still have a project to do and work to be done.”
The $1 million in the fiscal 2017 capital budget is intended to support planning costs associated with the project. Additional funding is also not needed to proceed with necessary city and state approvals on design, historic preservation and archaeological reviews related to the project site.
Kara Norman, executive director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership and point person on several of these applications, called the capital budget grant an exciting milestone for the project.
“While things may not have gone as planned, I think there is a lot to celebrate,” she said.
In an email on Wednesday, Mayor Randy McClement indicated a similar celebratory tone.
“We are thrilled that the state recognizes this project as an important economic development game changer for the city of Frederick and beyond,” he wrote.
Though the pre-authorization doesn’t guarantee the rest of the state funding, it does indicate some level of commitment, according to John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County.
“There’s a pretty solid track record that when the state contributes to the design of the project, they follow through with contributions to the construction of the project,” Fieseler said.
Elizabeth Cromwell, executive director of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, agreed.
“From our perspective, I don’t think it changes our support,” she said.
The Maryland Stadium Authority and city and county elected officials must sign a memorandum of understanding outlining terms and financing for the project before any state money can be spent. Norman said the terms of this agreement will be critical to ensure the project moves forward.
Project plans call for 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 News-Post.