On the same day that the The Frederick News-Post’s political reporter found out Gov. Larry Hogan did not include funding for Frederick’s downtown hotel and conference center in his first draft of the fiscal 2018 budget, a Frederick city staff member updated a group of downtown residents on the status of the project.
Despite naysayers speculating otherwise, Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, told attendees at a Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting Tuesday that the $84 million project is still on track. His presentation updated residents about the status of the project, which he said is basically awaiting all the necessary funding sources to move forward.
The planned 207-room Marriott, with a 24,000-square-foot conference center, is slated right now to come to fruition with public and private dollars. Plamondon Hospitality Partners is expected to pay $53 million for the hotel portion of the project. The remaining $31 million slated to fund construction of the conference center was initially set to come from the Frederick Board of Aldermen, Frederick County Council, state Legislature, the Maryland Economic Development Corp., and the Maryland Stadium Authority.
And although the city and county have both signed off on their portions, the rest of the money is still up in the air. Both MEDCO and the Stadium Authority no longer appear to be on board, at least the way the plan has been presented, leaving their appropriations unfunded at this point. Neither entity signed a proposed five-party memorandum of understanding, which which laid out financing plans and a schedule for the project.
In turn, the state’s $16 million portion is also iffy right now. Hogan’s fiscal 2018 budget did not include a $7.5 million allocation for the conference center. According to the MOU, the state was set to allocate $1 million in its fiscal 2017 budget and $7.5 million in both 2018 and 2019.
Funding for the project could still be added in within the next 12 weeks.
Griffin said in his presentation Tuesday that the budget is still being set for the project and he seemed optimistic that it will move forward once funding is secured. He said the scope could be changed, however, based on the funding.
Mayor Randy McClement said the following day that he recognizes the tightness of the state budget and will continue to ask local legislators to advocate for the project funds in Annapolis. Republicans in the delegation, who voted as a bloc against the conference center funding bill last year, have consistently opposed using public dollars for the project.
The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is 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.
Fire in Ice park fees waived despite alderwoman’s objection
Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak made it very clear that she completely supports the Downtown Frederick Partnership and the “amazing things” the agency has done for downtown before casting a lone vote in opposition of waiving a $200 park fee for its upcoming Fire in Ice event.
“This is a nonprofit, we already support this nonprofit, and I’m completely in favor of doing that,” Kuzemchak said during a discussion Thursday’s at a board of aldermen public hearing. “I want to know what the thought process is in expensing that support outside the budgeted money.”
The aldermen voted 4-1, with Kuzemchak opposed, to waive the park fee for the typically highly attended event set for Feb. 4. Kara Norman, executive director of Downtown Frederick Partnership, said the Fire in Ice theme, which features ice sculptures, fire dancers and a children’s ice playground, is by far the partnership’s most popular First Saturday event.
Because of the popularity of the event and the service that brings to the community, the majority of the aldermen agreed that it is eligible for a park fee waiver.
However, Kuzemchak argued that because the city already provides funding to the Downtown Frederick Partnership in its budget, waiving the fee for this event is unfair to the other nonprofits the city supports.
The aldermen did vote unanimously on another request Thursday from the Downtown Frederick Partnership, which is to serve beer and wine at the Fire in Ice event.