Susan: I have known Richard for many years and gotten to know Kara and John reasonably well. All three do their jobs well and have achieved much good for the City in the past. For me however they have gone right off the rails with this public private partnership (PPP) and tax increment financing (TIF.) It is much different from anything they have done before. They don’t know the economics of this, or choose to overlook it. And they choose to ignore the evidence of economic wreckage in the places that have done the most of these. Carried away by their enthusiasm to push this scheme onward they sometimes take shortcuts with the truth when it is expedient.
A hotel (or 2 or 3) could indeed have a very positive impact on the city if it is done right. It could lead in a few years to other hotels, smaller focused, limited service hotels, often called boutique hotels. This DHCC is not being done right and will have a negative impact on the city. Tax increment financing and political control of the design process for this hotel complex has led to a bloated, wasteful plan with all kinds of taxpayer giveaways that enmeshes us in the complexities of unnecessary debt and creates a bad precedent for future development. It will deter competing hotels downtown because they will see this City subsidized and created operation and ask ‘How can we compete.’ Or it will encourage them to repeat this protracted contentious negotiation to see how much money they can wring out of the city, county and state treasuries by politicking, and offering wasteful frills. Rather than tailoring the project to what the public as customers will support they will engage in the Griffin/Norman/Fieseler trio’s PPP model.
The DHCC may even be the wrong type of hotel for downtown. Full service hotels make more sense on the fringe than downtown. The whole spirit of the downtown is that you have multiple small specialist providers of different kinds of eating and drinking and shopping – all within walking distance of your lodging. Like the attached conference center the restaurants to be part of the DHCC complex are somewhat redundant.
Look if investors were prepared to fund the whole complex I’d say: it is your risk, your financing, so long as you can get through the city regulatory processes, go for it – 207 rooms, CC, and restaurants etc. But when they have a project that needs such heavy taxpayer support there’s something wrong with the project. That something is: it doesn’t fit the market.
I wish our Griffin/Norman/Fieseler trio would dedicate themselves to removing the real constraints on development by independent unsubsidized developers – our high levels of taxation, over-prescriptive zoning, unrealistic requirements for parking, the visitor experience on and off the interstates, the complexities and contradictions of historic preservation policy etc. Then we’d avoid the pitfalls of PPP/TIF, and get more soundly based hotels downtown.
The above was a response to this on the FoFC hotel watch FB page:
Susan Reeder Jessee I have to comment on people that I have worked with and know personally. Richard Griffin is one of the main reasons Carroll Creek looks like it does today. I saw all the hard work he and his staff put into that project and still do. Kara Norman has transformed the Downtown Frederick Partnership and has won awards for all they contribute to the downtown area. We are also very lucky to have John Fiesler head our tourism because of the wealth of knowledge he brings to that position. These key people, working together all have one goal in mind. To make our city and county that place people want to come to visit or live. As some who was born in the city I welcome that because of the impact it will have on our economy. 2016.02.11