Amid a downtown booming with development, renovations and changes in ownership, time has stood still at one creekside property.
The facades at 58-70 S. Market St. and the roofless building next door at 56 S. Market St. are all that remains from the buildings torn down decades ago, rendered uninhabitable after years of neglect by the former property owner. But since being sold at auction in 2011, plans to transform the abandoned, trash-strewn lots into a two-building, 21-unit apartment complex are finally moving forward.
Montgomery County resident Tarek Aly purchased the nearly 8,000 square feet of property for $153,000 in June 2011, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.
He recently submitted plans to build a three-story building in place of the facades at 58-70 S. Market St. with a combined 15 apartments, including studio and 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.
Aly said the apartments, targeting young professionals and possibly college students, will provide what he sees as an element missing from downtown’s housing options.
“The city is attracting a lot of young workers,” he said. “Most of downtown is high-end condominium units. This is more middle upscale than luxury upscale. We think that’s needed there.”
Each building would also allow office or commercial use on the ground floors. Given the small amount of space at ground level — 688 square feet in the 56 S. Market St. building and 2,741 square feet in the new building — Aly envisions them as small offices, for a chiropractor or dentist perhaps.
The design of the new building features mostly brick, with fiber cement siding, and wood balconies at the second and third stories.
According to Aly, the design “fits perfectly” with the surrounding brick-heavy buildings. Aly previously submitted plans to the Historic Preservation Commission for a six-story building with an exposed steel structure on the top four stories, but city staff noted that the plan did not fit well with the neighboring structures, according to a staff report.
Neighbors, officials weigh in
Atakan Yilmaz, manager of Capa Imports next door to the planned project, said he’s commented publicly on the abandoned property “at least 15 times” in the 20 years that he’s worked at the store.
“I really hope this goes through,” he said of the project, attributing the high number of homeless people who gather by his store each night to the vacant lots.
In an email Wednesday, acting Frederick police Capt. Jason Keckler said that “vacant properties can attract crime and nuisance issues.”
But he also identified the department’s Directed Patrol Team, formed in 2012, as well as regular patrol assignments downtown, outreach and education efforts, and crime prevention initiatives as ways to address such problems.
Of the plan for mixed residential and commercial buildings, Yilmaz said anything, any activity would be welcome.
“It doesn’t matter what it’s going to be. I just want this block to work,” he said.
Mayor Randy McClement acknowledged that filling the vacant space was “a long time coming,” while Dave Cook, who owns a house on East All Saints Street on the other side of the abandoned lot, heralded the project as “one of the good things” to come out of the blight downtown.
According to McClement, the mixed residential and commercial use proposed by Aly “fits right in with what we’re trying to do up and down Patrick and Market streets.”
Since the project falls within the Frederick Town Historic District, the HPC must approve architecture and new construction, according to Jacqueline Marsh, the city’s case planner for the project. The HPC already granted a Level 1 approval for the new construction, and for demolition of the facades.
Before a Level 2 review can begin, however, the Planning Commission must approve the final site plans. A meeting between city planning staff and project team members to discuss the submitted plans is slated for June 22, after which developers have a month to address and respond to comments made, Marsh said.
“If we feel like the plan is ready at that time, we will schedule it for the August workshop. It all depends on what they resubmit to us,” Marsh wrote in an email.
Aly said he and project team members are on track to present at an August workshop.
“We’re really pushing to get the ball rolling there,” he said.
Aly estimated building would take about two years once all approvals and permits are in place.