The city of Frederick is faced with three less-than-ideal choices as it considers whether to extend for a fourth time an agreement with the developer of the long-planned and long-delayed hotel and conference center for downtown Frederick.

The most recent agreement between the city and Plamondon Hospitality Partners is due to expire June 30. The city and the developer are looking to extend their amended agreement for the project through Dec. 31, 2023.

Both sides believe that this extension will be long enough for the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hotel and hospitality industry to become clearer. The pandemic decimated the travel industry, and forecasters vary on how long it will take to recover, and to what extent the rebound will take place.

So, the city basically has three choices. The first one is that it could scrap the hotel project all together, an outcome that would be a disaster for the city and its treasured historic district.

Numerous urban planners have stressed the importance of having a hotel and conference center for a successful downtown. In their book “Our Towns,” James and Deborah Fallows visited numerous mid-size cities around the country to see what was working and what was not.

They identified a downtown hotel as one of the three pillars of a successful city, with the others being a strong restaurant scene and a waterway that can draw tourists and local residents.

In Frederick, we have Carroll Creek with its beautiful linear park, and we have had a terrific restaurant industry, though the pandemic has battered that as well. But we need a hotel to complete the plan for continuing success. So, killing the project is a nonstarter.

The second choice would be to let the agreement expire and begin the search for a new developer. In this unsettled and unsettling business climate, finding a new partner would be an enormous challenge, and would set the project back months if not years.

In addition, any firm willing to start the process is likely going to look for even more government support because of the challenging environment.

Mayor Michael O’Connor said he believes that if the city lets the agreement lapse, the project could be jeopardized, and possibly irreparably. He is probably correct.

The third option isn’t ideal either, but giving Plamondon the extension and the financial support it is seeking looks like the best bet for getting the vital project back on track.

Richard Griffin, Frederick’s director of economic development, said the city has strongly backed the project as an economic anchor for downtown, generating business for the restaurants and shops that make the historic district thrive. But he told the mayor and aldermen last week that the pandemic has caused unavoidable delays.

Under the extension agreement, Plamondon Hospitality Partners will have to keep intact the development site, which runs between East Market Street and Carroll Creek along South Carroll Street. According to a report by city staff, the developer would also have to do a market analysis of the post-COVID market demand, obtain financing, complete the design and be ready to start construction.

The city would pay Plamondon Hospitality Partners $150,000 from the City Parking Enterprise Fund to cover part of the design changes and other costs.

Developer Pete Plamondon told the aldermen the project was always going to take a long time, and now it will take longer. According to News-Post reporter Ryan Marshall, Plamondon said leisure travel is picking up, but the market for meetings — which would be the bread and butter of the new hotel — will likely be the last to rebound.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 3. The Board of Aldermen should then approve the extension. No one is happy with another delay, but the alternatives are unthinkable or unworkable.

(43) comments

gary4books

I keep waiting for Kelly Alzan to contribute. Then we could call this a "reunion conversation." It is a nice walk down "memory lane." (smile)

francesca_easa

The former Visitation Academy has yet to open. I am sure they can provide all of the necessary rooms (along with existing hotels and AirBnBs) for visitors. Another option -- expand the Post Office. They are always busy, parking is a chore, and they could use better work and office space.

Piedmontgardener

FNP - get a grip. There's a super boutique hotel project two blocks away - It's time for the Randall equity to sell out to someone like Douglas Development who did such a beautiful job on the project fronting East Patrick and the Creek. And let professionals who will use private money transform the space.

petersamuel

They say scrapping the project would be "a disaster for the City." How ridiculous. You can think it would be helpful to have hotels downtown. I do. But a "disaster" not to get this particular crony-capitalist taxpayer underwritten hotel? The whole thing is ill-conceived and corrupt. The stink of this scheme pollutes the investment environment of this city, and prevents us getting many sounder, smaller initiatives better suited to the historic district. It would be liberating to be rid of this cronyist project.

eastmoonrabbit

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

oldmagpie11

Plamondon, public enemy of affordable housing.

PurplePickles aka L&M

I guess I can overlook this editorial knowing it wasn’t written by the usual editors, though I do wonder if the usual editors have a hard time with having their ethics overlooked?

MD1756

Clearly the editors of the paper lack imagination if there position regarding options is that "The first one is that it could scrap the hotel project all together, an outcome that would be a disaster for the city and its treasured historic district." As I suggested in a comment to a previous article about this, no public money should go towards building a hotel. If the city were smart they would try to attract a developer to build condos in that location. I have money invested in entities that cater to condos or apartments for Millennials and Gen Xers (and in a few years Gen Z). Many of them want to live in downtown areas and not have to worry about any exterior maintenance. If Frederick has a shortfall of affordable housing, why not get a developer to provide it? We see what happens to the business meeting/tourist industry economy when significant issues happen. Does Frederick really think the best jobs it can create are low/no skilled housekeeping and food service jobs in the hospitality industry? Again I'll say can't we drive a stake through the heart of this vampire which will suck public funding that would be better spent elsewhere.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

JerryR

👍👍

NewMarketParent

[thumbup][thumbup]

DickD

The best Choice Is NO contract...If Plamondon wants to build a hotel let them use their own money.

gjthuro

Amen; this is simply a waste of taxpayer money on behalf of multi- millionaire and is shameful but typical of the left not unlike their quest for an 8% increase in spending /wasting of other peoples hard earned $$$$

DickD

What has the left to do with giving Plamondons money. .That makes no sense.

eastmoonrabbit

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

JerryR

Dick - you are completely correct. If the city/county gives the Plamondon's money it's foolish and a waste. They have enough money to do it themselves.

gabrielshorn2013

Oh come on FNP, could you please let this boondoggle die the death it so rightly deserves! Earlier estimates said that the hotel needed approximately a 70% occupancy rate to break even, yet the "public parking garage" (a.k.a. the building foundation) fills up at a 50% occupancy rate, Where is everyone else to park, including the hotel staff? No traveler is going to want to schlep their baggage from another deck and walk to the hotel, especially at night or foul weather. Let the downtown businesses become shareholders if they want the hotel.

threecents

Since there are already plenty of hotels just outside the downtown area, better idea might be to have improved bus and shuttle services from those hotels to downtown.

bosco

I just drove by the hotels on 85 near Westview Plaza and was wondering the same thing. [thumbup]

threecents

I don't think the travel business will recover to pre-pandemic levels. Virtual conferences are so much cheaper that I don't see them ever going completely away. The whole idea of a conference center/hotel may need years to be re-evaluated, and there was already disagreement about whether it was necessary for Frederick.

gary4books

The hotel project is not a sure money maker. it works as a service to visitors and the businesses downtown. If it were a money maker we would already have one. But it will need some money to get started. So the question is "How much should we spend for visitors and local business?" Perhaps the voters should decide. I am willing to pay my fair share, even when I do not have the funds to build a hotel myself. Or a drum to beat.

gabrielshorn2013

Gary, if the hotel is not a money maker, then it will be supported by taxpayer dollars, and the city should not be in the hotel business anyway. If the downtown businesses believe that they will benefit, then let them pony-up and become shareholders, and leave the taxpayers out of it.

gjthuro

the money to get started should come from those who will profit and that for sure is NOT the taxpayers ...and if there is no profit that means the project is not needed

Guy T. Ashton

OMG put a fork in this! Can’t help noting that the article makes no mention of the boutique hotel presently under construction at the former Visitation Academy. That would be a hotel. Downtown. Paid for by private money. Enough already. Let this dog die in peace.

gary4books

The former Academy location is a good place for a hotel. However, no location beats being on Carroll Creek and the walk. That is primo. And the prime elements of real estate are location, location and location. That is where the action is.

Guy T. Ashton

If it is such a great opportunity then let it be with private funding, not taxpayer money. I have no issue with the hotel per se, just in the manner by which it is trying to come about.

Business Owner

Then why didn't the City select a vacant lot (nearly two acres) directly across the creek from the old FNP site? Also has frontage on East Street.

kfmd

It's what... a 2 block walk to the canal, past businesses that would benefit from the foot traffic. And a beautiful historic building at that.

Business Owner

The site I'm referring to is on the canal, not two blocks away. More like two feet away.

MD1756

It is a much better place for condos rather than a hotel project partially funded with tax payer money. You'll have it filled to capacity all year and won't have to worry about supporting low/no skilled housekeeping jobs.

Business Owner

The site I'm referring to doesn't require tax payer funds. Condos vs. hotel -- curious to see your analysis on how your reached that conclusion.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] md1756!

MD1756

Business owner, I have not made any specific studies, but there are a number of factors which lead me to that conclusion:
First a hotel project primarily creates low/no skill dead end jobs for the long term.
Second, business travel has been on the decline (even before the pandemic). Before I retired from the U.S. EPA in the fall of 2017, we have already replaced a lot of our face-to-face meetings with our ten Regional offices with virtual meetings (and now with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. it is even cheaper and easier to hold virtual meetings. Business travel had been on the decline due to budgets and better use of the money elsewhere and as businesses try to go carbon neutral eliminating trips goes a long way. (see: https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/publications/wherenext/business-travel-decline/)
Third Millennials don't want to live in or can't afford single family homes. I have some of my savings invested in businesses that cater to developing apartments and condos for Millennials (and those investments are returning a significant profit - those business owners have done their research) Additionally see: https://condo.capital/blog/millennials-prefer-condos for reasons why Millennials look towards apartments or condos
Fourth, there is a shortage of housing in the Frederick area, particularly affordable housing. A condo project could fill the need with housing that is affordable to Millennials.
Fifth,We've seen what too much reliance on travel can do to local economies and the pandemic is just on example of the risk that comes with an economy that relies too heavily on travel dollars (Inflation and recessions are additional examples).

There are more reasons, but that should be good enough to suggest that condos built entirely by private dollars should be given serious consideration over another hotel partially built with public dollars. How many people are really traveling to Frederick just for the arts, or restaurants/brew pubs? Millennials will spend their dollars going to places walkable from their condos (for example, see: https://www.newsday.com/opinion/commentary/walkable-cities-in-the-suburbs-1.16603467 and see also: https://homebase.ai/smart-apartments/millennials-city-life-to-suburbs/ and see: https://updater.com/blog/millennial-housing-trends/).

elmerchismo1

East Market Street??

public-redux

To get to East Market, make a hard right onto Easy Ave, the take the left hand fork at Spooner Rd., then go up Down Street.

bosco

I followed your directions and ended up on the corner of walk and don't walk.[wink]

public-redux

My favorite intersection in Frederick is the one where E. South St. and S. East St. cross. And it also happens to be the 100 block for both streets.

DickD

So. You stood on your head?

gary4books

Not on my map.

Dwasserba

Keep beating that drum 🙄

Dwasserba

Air bnb owners here know where their properties are. I’m guessing they don’t speak up and provide a map of locations because the whole idea is blending in? Maintaining the historic veneer of the city? Wow. Who’d prefer that. There are places to stay if you plan on playing overnight tourist. Key word: plan. The argument that “we” owe tourists a spur of the moment place to stay is not a great business plan. Didn’t these used to be called “flophouses” - If you are here and spontaneously decide to stay over, ask the bartender to call you a cab or an Uber and (1) go home or (2) call a friend to rescue you or (3) go to a hotel. You’ll be sleeping. You won’t need the magic of downtown ambiance.

gjthuro

the entire project is simply a plan to fleece the taxpayers and shame on those elected officials who support this

JerryR

👍👍

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