At some point, we will all wake up from this pandemic nightmare gripping our country and our community. And when we do, there will be a lot of work to be done to get us moving again.
Congress is moving toward a gigantic economic stimulus as this is written, and the Federal Reserve is pumping money into the economy at an astonishing rate. Both institutions know that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
Our local economy will need stimuli as well, and that may mean that stalled projects which hold promise of increasing growth will be needed — and soon.
The first such project that will come to mind for many, including us, is the long-proposed and long-planned hotel and conference center for downtown Frederick. In the days leading up to widespread closings caused by COVID-19, we saw one ray of bright news.
On March 12, which seems now like a lifetime ago, a new study was released reporting that the project would generate $1.5 billion in new spending in Frederick County over the course of 25 years.
We have long supported the project, arguing that it would be a boon to the historic district of the city in particular, but this study quantifies that assertion.
Rick Weldon, chief executive officer of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, called the hotel the “most important economic opportunity we have seen in a long time in the city of Frederick.”
The study by Hunden Strategic Partners, a real estate development advisory firm, said in its first year, the hotel is projected to generate more than $17 million in gross revenue, growing to more than $22 million annually by its fifth year.
According to the report, such direct spending by visitors at the hotel is estimated at $882 million over 25 years. The rest of the $1.5 billion in new spending includes indirect and induced spending.
Indirect spending is money that the hotel itself spends in the community, such as purchasing linens. Induced spending is money spent by people in the community who might have a higher income as a result of the hotel, such as a waitress who earns more in tips.
The report said that the city and county would collect a combined $61 million in taxes as a result of the hotel over the 25-year period, and the hotel would support 391 new jobs.
The coronavirus pandemic has already dealt a crippling blow to our economy, and we must not allow it to become a fatal blow.
The historic district in particular has been hammered. With row after row of closed restaurants, bars and specialty shops, we worry and cannot help but wonder how many of them will survive. What will our downtown look like in a few months?
Because of the stubborn opposition of local Republican lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan has refused to spend money appropriated by the Maryland General Assembly to support the project by helping to pay for the parking needed to complete the project.
The Hogan administration should take a new look at the project in light of the anticipated damage done by the pandemic. But even if it declines to do so, the county and city governments must step up to make this project happen.
The historic district — the pride and joy of Frederick — must not be allowed to slip away when such a useful tool is at hand to revitalize and stabilize it. Get this project done.