Efforts to transform a once-blighted downtown site into an apartment complex have resumed after moving several significant steps backwards in the process.

Ron Johnston, project architect, appeared before the city Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday requesting the same demolition of the facades at 58-70 S. Market St. the commission approved in 2012. That approval, along with those for the rehabilitation of the roofless building next door at 56 S. Market St. and first-level site plans, have since expired.

This time, the commission voted to approve demolition of only one set of the brick facades, from 66-70 S. Market St.

The second facade, at 58-60 S. Market St., was deemed a contributing resource to the Frederick Town Historic District in a narrow 4-3 vote. Although the commission may still approve demolition of contributing resources, the historic district guidelines dictate that such a decision must be made at a separate public hearing.

The next steps remain uncertain as city planing staff and commission members work with the project team to determine if and how the facade can be incorporated into the new building plans. But the fact that progress has resumed at all is positive, said Mayor Randy McClement in an interview before the meeting.

“We do have applications that lapse,” he said. “We’re glad they’re still interested enough to move forward and get something in there.”

Efforts to rehabilitate the long-abandoned site had several false starts. The city granted demolition of the dilapidated buildings at 58-70 S. Market St., apart from the front facades, in 2000. Replacement plans didn’t materialize as expected.

The property sold for $153,000 at a tax sale in 2011 to its current owner, a business entity known as Suitland Road LLC, according to online property tax records. A year later, Montgomery County resident Tarek Aly, listed as the corporation’s principal, applied for and received HPC approval to tear down the 58-70 S. Market St. facades and rehabilitate the 56. S. Market St. building.

Aly submitted plans for the three-story, two-building apartment complex to the city Planning Commission this past spring.

Suddenly, things halted. The Planning Commission hearing was postponed after Aly failed to submit the necessary subdivision plat. Then, the HPC approvals expired. And the future of the long-abandoned property was uncertain yet again.

After a hiatus that lasted several months, progress has resumed.

The commission will vote on demolition of the second facade at a hearing next month. It will also review a second application for partial demolition and rehabilitation of the 56 S. Market St. building at a January meeting. That application was also approved in 2012 and has since expired.

In comments after the hearing, Johnston credited the lack of action after the prior approvals to misunderstanding of when the approvals expired. He also said there were other factors involved, but did not want to elaborate.

Aly did not attend the hearing and did not return phone messages asking for comment Thursday.

Several additional approvals from the HPC and the Planning Commission are needed before Aly can move forward with demolition or new construction. Based on the site plans submitted to the city earlier this year, the project would replace the facades with a three-story, 15-apartment building of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

The building at 56 S. Market St. would be elevated to three stories as well — the street-facing portion already stands three stories tall, but the rear is only two. That would then be renovated to make way for six apartments. Each building would also allow office or commercial use on the ground floors.

Aly told The Frederick News-Post previously that construction would take about two years once all approvals and permits are in place.

The property was identified as one of 30 on its blighted property list and property watch list created in 2014. As of the Oct. 1 quarterly update, it is still listed as a property to watch, although there are no open code violations according to the city’s online database.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

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

(10) comments

cldeboin

Lead paint, and asbestos insulate pipes are no joke, and MUST and SHOULD be both addressed; and any renovate on those home should definitely done with oversight control from the "dreaded" Historic Commission !!

MAVRICKinc7

How does one intend to take over 50 years of neglect and get away with it? How many SLUM properties in Frederick are there and SLOWLY being recorded as blight, from one day to the next. I appreciate the nostalgia and history FEELINGS, but if the Historic Preservation Committee intends to hold ALL of Frederick hostage with more blighted properties, then what kind of market share in the future does Frederick intend to CONTROL, other than paying lipservice, for the sake of history, that's been rotting away for the last 50+ years under it's own weight? What does the Randall Family and their development partners intend to get back from building another Hotel, disguised as a Convention Center that is more about the 21st century than what has been left and ALLOWED to rot away for the past 50+ years?

Is this the kind of mentality and market share in Frederick that elected governance HOPES to capture, based on another DONE DEAL that brings more strangers and one nighters to the downtown arena to witness our history decay away by a consent strategy that's over 50 years old?

What is it about this latest game strategy that is being played out by the Randall family and their development partners (including the FNP) that is so inviting when we ALREADY have an abundance of vacant and blighted properties to contend with, with local elected governance cowing to tax returns, and the wealth of its OWNERS. so that NOTHING is accomplished to keep Frederick from folding around what is not longer antique but a trash dispenser?

Hammer

No HPC is responsible for buildings left 35 plus years. The market in the past twenty years has been reasonable to restore these as required.

joelp77440

Actually it is the HPC, market forces and the awesome power of mother nature. All had a hand in this mess.

cctjr64

I put the blame totally on the Frederick Historic Commission for the way these properties are. The tall building, which was the warehouse for PL Hargett Hardware store has set empty since 1968. The 2 to the right were the old Ducky's Resturant/Tavern and bowling alley which sat empty before 1964. A gentle man from Washington DC bought everything and was working with the HPC back then until the flood or 1972 came along. He wanted to tear down Ducky's, as they were already in bad shape and then convert the warehouse into apartments, but the HPC didn't want Ducky's torn down. 4 years later the 1976 flood hit, which destroyed a lot of downtown, especially these buildings. Again, during then Mayor Ron Young's terms as mayor, which he started the revitalization of downtown, the HPC did not want these buildings to go, even thought the new Carroll Creek park might even have to come down this far. So this is why these properties have sat empty for so long.

So don't blame the property owners for these blighted properties, blame the Frederick Historic Commission.

benhem612

I am mixed. I love the look and feel of downtown Frederick and appreciate the preservation of the historic look and feel of the city. I also recognize the value in preserving the historic architecture and materials for posterity. That said, there has to be some sort of middle ground where someone the Historic commission can agree on faux historic materials for things like energy efficient doors and windows. Especially on houses that are merely old but served no historic function, I fully understand preserving 100% buildings that were witness to historic events or ways of life. But the old properties that are a dime a dozen should have some historic accommodations to make them worthwhile investments. When a property is blighted and the folks who buy it decide they might sell it because of the hassle of using original wooden window I think the mark has been missed.

Dwasserba

The poll results so far are kind of shocking. I don't live downtown either, as I am not particularly handy, but I can appreciate artistic loving care and agree that the smallest of the buildings deserves it. Does anyone remember Trail Mansion "before"? I do. It was once an endangered wreck. There are toens that have no protections and left to "practical choices" every shred of charm can be destroyed. There is no getting it back. The best you can do is a fake copy. The ambiance is entirely different when people with an aesthetic sense have control. You appreciate it when they quit and don't come back.

Boyce Rensberger

Once again a News-Post writer throws out a jargonlike phrase, without defining it, as if she expected readers to know what it meant.

What is a "contributing resource"? Sounds like it might be a term in some local law, rule or regulation. Or maybe just a phrase used by a source that the reporter adopted in place of language that would be more meaningful to readers not steeped in historic preservation lingo.

Please, FNP reporters and editors, write for your readers, not for your sources.

jill king

It's plain English. Why didn't you catch the misspelling of "planning," in paragraph three?

jwhamann

I wouldn't doubt if one of these facades falls over within the next two years.

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