Former Carmack Jays property still vacant

Carmack Jay’s, 300 block of North Market St. in Frederick.

The message from Frederick residents at Wednesday night’s community meeting was clear: The entire northern end of the city, not just the former Carmack-Jay’s property, needs to be revitalized.

Many among the standing-room-only crowd pointed to the vacancies, derelict buildings and the lack of foot traffic that characterize the “north of Fourth” region.

According to residents, addressing these issues is a key part of finding a tenant for the long-vacant 331 N. Market St., once home to a grocery called Carmack-Jay’s and still referred to by that name.

Blight problems

“No realistic retailer is going to move into a place that’s 50 percent vacant,” said Bruce Albaugh, a Third Street resident, likening the 300th block of North Market Street to a skid row.

Hallie Burrier, owner of Treaty General Store, agreed, detailing her observations of the gradual demise of Third Street as seen from her North Market Street business.

“Business is both offense and defense, and Third Street is about protecting what you have,” she said. “What can be done to help fight blight and blight vacancies?”

Resident Joe Dillon referenced one property owner in particular as the source of the blight problem, asking if Douglas Development could purchase and transform that, or any other, of the problematic properties in the 300 block of North Market.

Consultants weigh in

But city officials and hired consultants on the Carmack-Jay’s property revitalization approached the topic from a different perspective.

David Lingg, of Lingg Property Consulting, said that finding a tenant for Carmack-Jay’s would serve as the catalyst for improvements to the surrounding neighborhood.

Lingg, who was brought on by Douglas for his expertise on the city’s land management code, which dictates how the vacant property could be used, suggested a mix of commercial and residential uses as a plan that could spur such revitalization.

“You need something of that nature drawing some new retail and some more upscale things to that area,” he said.

Jim Mackintosh, of Mackintosh Realtors, the newly hired commercial broker for the site, also supported a mixed-use plan as an “economically feasible” option for the property.

The specifics of the plan depend on what a prospective tenant wants, Mackintosh said.

The grocery debate

What won’t work, however, is a grocery store, which has been a repeated request from city residents.

“We can sit here and say we want a grocery store till we’re blue in the face, but it if doesn’t make economic sense and they can’t afford it ... you’re going to have the ones just like in the past where they’ve gone belly up,” said Mackintosh, referencing numerous chain and smaller groceries that have decided against opening a store at the vacant North Market Street site.

Despite his characterization of a small market as “nearly impossible,” a few residents repeated the suggestion Wednesday night.

Mike Dickson, CEO of Seed of Life Nurseries, said a market run through Seed of Life as a nonprofit would allow it to qualify for tax credits, helping to offset the potential financial disadvantages the site poses for that kind of business.

Dewey Stewart, who runs the Frederick City Market, advocated for a small, co-op style market, which he said “brings something that a Safeway or Giant can’t bring.”

Development-friendly changes needed

Others in the crowd said that regardless of what goes in the space, the city’s fees and red-tape-laden approval process for rehabilitation of old buildings should be revised to make the area more development-friendly.

Hilda Staples, city resident and co-owner of a series of area restaurants including Volt and Family Meal, said she and business partner Bryan Voltaggio previously considered opening a market in the Carmack-Jay’s property. Instead, they opted to take their business to Washington, saving $200,000.

“The city fees were just too much,” Staples said.

Peter Samuel, editor of a website known as Restore Historic Frederick, named cutting red tape and reducing regulations as the key to economic development.

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, acknowledged that certain costs, like the city’s water and sewer impact fee for new users, were relatively high in Frederick. But changes made by the mayor and Board of Aldermen to that fee structure could alleviate some of the burden, particularly for infill developments like the Carmack-Jay’s site, he said.

Mayor responds

Mayor Randy McClement echoed this sentiment in remarks made at the end of the meeting. He said the city will continue to address blight, including the specific property owner Dillon mentioned, whom the city “will hit in every direction.”

McClement urged residents not to forget the progress the city has already made, describing Frederick as “98 percent good.”

The jeers and objections that followed his statement indicated that residents don’t feel the same.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify Bruce Albaugh's reference to a skid row.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

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

(10) comments

elymus43

Who wants to start a business in Frederick city in the first place??? Everything here is too high priced.

nbouqu1

Randy flat out lied. Or is just stupid. Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), specifically allows a city to take private property to and transfer it to another private owner for the purposes of redevelopment. And in Kelo the properties in question were not all blighted. The majority of them were well-maintained homes. You cannot have a more on point Supreme Court ruling. Even the grossly incompetent city attorney's office could defend this. Either Randy is a lying sack of s**t or stupid, neither of which is a desirable trait in an elected official. I'm willing to entertain delusional, but that's not any better.

Skater

The city voted for Randy so what did they expect?

penny2659

I think it would be nice if the city would put a save a lot store so frederick city could afford to eat

CynnicalSid

The City's first challenge in the blight fight was an abysmal failure!

The threatening letters sent to the Ro's demanded they bring the Asiana up to code, all work to be completed completely and with due diligence or else!

Then threatened with multiple fines unless they bring the building up to code, passing all inspections!

What do we have now? A condemned building, not up to code, few fines, no court mandated work, no pressure from the city to do anything and the mayor says we've done all we can with the Ro's?

Maybe the Mayor needs to stop lying to the residents "everything was completed, nothing was overlooked" Another fat fib straight from the mayor to the city!

Maybe the 2 managers of code need to stop falsifying code inspections as city documentation will show!

Maybe the legal department needs to stop lying in court saying it was completed when it wasn't!

Until we clean house at city hall nothing will improve. It's time for another protest. A BIG one! It's time for Randy and his band of buffoons to be nationally disgraced!

Fed up in Frederick!

dcg326

Ok where is the person who represents Fredrick bringing businesses to that location,never here from whoever it is.Asleep for years ,just write , thats it, over and over.

dcg326

Too picky, a Mc Donalds there ,better then empty or a 7-11, anything, a 7-11 has a few groceries too. TOO PICKY in historic area, oh no not that too,must please the elite historic group,picky ,picky, ,oh no.

cctjr64

Wow, for once I'm going to agree with Woody. The Frederick Hysterical Commission has to much control over downtown. Just like what they are trying to do with the old jail is what has already been done in the 300-600 blocks of N. Market St and is why it sits empty.

barbaradean8

i agree,the historic crap is just to busy bodies telling other what they can do to THIER homes

Dwasserba

We're really really good at discussing the same things from generation to generation as if someone might say something new and something might happen.
Zombies move faster.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.