Not every historic property in Frederick gets a second chance at life. Fortunately, the Visitation Academy will.

The former Catholic girls school is hard to miss, standing behind a thick iron gate on 3 acres between Second and Church streets in the heart of downtown. When it shuttered in 2016 after nearly 200 years of operation, many wondered what would become of the property. Despite the decades of memories inside its walls, the locked gate made Visitation somewhat of a mystery to many Frederick residents, as no one but those who attended and taught at the school were allowed inside for years. How amazing would it be if the gates were opened and the public could finally go inside?

What many people were unaware of at the time was that a pair of Annapolis developers were waiting for the school to halt operations so they could buy it and do just that.

Their vision is now moving swiftly forward. This past Monday, the city Planning Commission approved a site plan for a 60-room boutique hotel with a plethora of amenities in the former school building, and construction of multifamily housing on two other lots.

The property contains the three-story, L-shaped building that housed the school — part of which also operated as a hospital for a stint during the Civil War — monastery, auditorium and chapel. The plans call for restoration and rehabilitation of many historic elements of the building for the hotel and slated amenities, which include a bridal suite, restaurant and bar with a kitchen, meeting space, fitness center, shops and a salon.

The rest of the property is set to contain parking, as well as condos and apartments. The plans also call for the preservation of a cemetery at the back of the property where about 100 nuns who once lived and taught at the school are buried.

All in all, it looks as though the developers — Jim O’Hare and Lance Jaccard of the Annapolis-based O2J Visitation LLC — are doing everything right.

This project is exactly what Frederick needs, not only because it will bring a — though small — much-needed hotel to downtown, but because it is taking a Frederick landmark and preserving some of the most stimulating pieces of architecture to enjoy for generations to come.

And O’Hare and Jaccard, who have experience developing similar projects in Baltimore, Annapolis and Lewes, Delaware, should be commended for their innovative vision and willingness to invest in our city. According to a previous News-Post article, O’Hare estimates the total cost of the project will come in between $15 million and $20 million, some of which they hope to offset with federal and state tax credits. That is not a small price, and the investment is not going unnoticed.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have already given their blessing to the project, and the Planning Commission was the latest bureaucratic step. O’Hare said in November that he expected to open the hotel within two years. On that timeline, we should expect to be able to start renting rooms in a little more than a year. And we can’t wait.

(20) comments

llrowse

Whatever was paid, the character of the downtown will be destroyed

public-redux

How so?

llrowse

Really? I lived on Third Street right across the street from the gates where vehicles came, and left. This was very limited. It was a quiet tree lined street. Now it’s becoming a Boutique hotel, motel, with condos, etc. Hmmm... How will this be different? Cars in, cars out, continual noise, resident parking, hordes of people wandering the streets, who have a sense that they can do whatever they wish (Boutique customers) because they’re only visiting. You don’t understand how it will be different? I most certainly would NEVER live on Third Street again.

richardlyons

The back vehicle gate was on Church Street. The front of the academy was on 2nd Street. If you lived on 3rd Street you were a block away from VA.

llrowse

Excuse me, Church Street. I lived on Third as well. The point is the same - a nice quiet area is becoming irreversibly commercialized.

DickD

".........  some of which they hope to offset with federal and state tax credits."There might be some tax credits, but it will be far less than the Marriott and probably a lot nicer for about 25% of the cost.  

Burgessdr

DickD. Facepalm. Visitation tax credits are said to be $6 million. Public financing of Marriott is said to be $22.5 million. 6/22.5 is 27%. So they are receiving comparable tax credits. In addition if you had bothered to read or attend meetings you would know that the profit from construction of the residential component is making renovation of Visitation possible. Clueless

DickD

You are right on percentage, if the taxes are what you say they are. But 22.5 minus 6 equals 14.5 million less.

sevenstones1000

Somebody please do an investigative report on how those poor nuns were defrauded.



They were paid a relative pittance by a developer for this valuable property, trusting the promise that it would be kept open as a school.



One year later, that promise was thrown in the trash, which was always the plan, and the developer flipped the property to a related LLC for millions in profit.



Shameful! The nuns should have been given the bulk of any profit that developer made when he flipped it.



This property comes with a shadow of exploitation of trusting nuns. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen.

DickD

Three, if you read Maryland law, land transactions and agreements MUST be in writing. If they wanted anything particular, their attorney should have had it written into the deed ,at the time of the sale.

DickD

Here is  a sample agreement.  If the nuns were wripped off, it was the fault of their attorney.http://www.tmirealestate.com/images/CommercialSalesContract.pdf 21. NOTICE: All notices, demands and/or consents provided for in this Agreement shall be in writing and shall be deemed to have been served on the date mailed by United States registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, with postage prepaid. All such notices and communications shall be addressed to the parties hereto at the respective addresses set forth at page 1 hereof, or at such other addresses as either may specify to the other in writing. 22. 1031 EXCHANGE: The parties acknowledge that

sevenstones1000

Blame the nuns. It was the fault of the developer who knew he was not paying them a fair price, and who knew his promise to keep it open was as strong as tissue paper.



Shame on you.

richardlyons

Give it up already. We understand you feel the sisters were cheated. In doing so you ignore the fact that their order has legal representation, committed to their welfare and financial well being. If your proposed investigation is into their poor legal representation have at it. Otherwise we are tired of you conspiracy comments.

gabrielshorn2013

Oh come on now seven, this is silly. Example. You wish to sell your car, and state an asking price. I know that the car can be worth more if I decide to flip it, so I agree to your price. Should I have said "no wait, allow me to double your asking price"? Same goes for real estate. Who does that? Nobody ripped off the Sisters. If you still think so, then blame the incompetence of their legal representation, not the developer who took a good deal. BTW, did the Sisters own the property themselves, or was it the Diocese?

public-redux

“Money makes the world go round, the world go round, the world go round. Money makes the world go round. It makes the world go. A mark, a buck, a yen, or a pound, it makes the world go round.”

public-redux

Indeed, Gabe. I knew a man who was so proud about selling his property as a FSBO because he saved the Realtor’s 6% commission. He wasn’t so pleased when the purchaser sold it for 60% more a few weeks later.

DickD

I don't know who owned this particular properate, Gabe, but usually it's the Diocese. And when they borrow money, they borrow from the Church. So, any loan interest goes to the Church, which pays no taxes.

richardlyons

The property was owned by the Sisters of the Visitation, mother house is based in Atlanta, I think. The cloistered convent had been "surpressed" by Cardinal Keeler sometime around 2008 and the sisters residing there were required to move to the a convent in/near Richmond,VA. As the property was owned by the order, it was requested to sell to Matan with the intent to keep the girls school open and running. That lasted for several years but the tuition was not covering the cost to keep the 150 year old buildings (huge) up. The school was shuttered and the property sold to the current owners by Matan. Was a profit made by Matan? Probably but I don't know. The Sisters of the Visitation got what they and their attorney's agreed to. Case closed. Happy the buildings will be put to good use. Spouse taught there for 10 years and daughter was a student for 10 years. Many fond memories of the site and the sisters.

joelp77440

To the best of my knowledge of the situation, and I was loosely involved early on. The Nuns, which I could never figure out how many of them there were 2-5 I think, knew that it was not going to be kept as a school. They wanted it to be kept as a school, they pushed for that too but when they signed the papers they knew the developers had no intention of keeping it as a school. Also, it was my impression that the nuns were not on the same page about the sale, so I am not sure which nun this lady is talking about.

Dwasserba

"...no one but those who attended and taught at the school were allowed inside for years." It was open for tours during the holidays and on May Day.

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