Griffin and hotel group walked into a huge fight with historic preservationists

(comment on Jane Weir in FoFC Marriott Watch page)

Yes the FNP site has been the favorite site among the project’s supporters for a long time, certainly way before the RFP14J piece of theater was staged for the public. Richard Griffin has said several times, and I have not heard any dissent from his colleagues that they chose the site in large part BECAUSE it was a difficult site. They recognized it would be difficult to get HP approval, difficult to handle traffic and parking, difficult to fit with other buildings.

Griffin has this theory of catalytics and jump-starting under which one improvement will inexorably lead to others adjacent. He has said: “The FNP site has laid there, year after year, no one will do anything with it.” So City government comes to the rescue.

It was noticeable that the the selection criteria used in the RFP gave catalytics etc. heavy weighting with almost no weight given to what hoteliers normally think is very important — visibility from a major entry road, convenient access from that road, and parking. That would have disadvantaged the FNP site because several other sites are much better in terms of visibility, access and parking — Galleria, brickworks particularly.

Richard G thinks he can talk the HP people into accepting demolition of the Birely and handle the other HP issues of mass/scale, demo of southern part of the trolley building. He is over-reaching and over-confident, I think. We’ll see however. I’m sure that there are a lot of influence efforts being undertaken behind the scenes.

The FNP hotel people cannot validly complain about historic preservationists wrecking their hotel project. They knew precisely what they were getting into with this site. They had other sites with few or no historic pres issues. They chose to go with the one with big HP issues. And they chose to take to it this behemoth of a scheme, the 207 room all-the-frills hotel, Conf Ctr, 180,000sf, 6 stories, a need to demolish 50% trolley of the building, 100% of Birely.

They walked into a fight with their eyes wide open knowing HP is a formidable foe of development….or at least a serious limiter of development. The Citys’ Hotel Advisory Committee worked away for years on this thing without any HP representative, just the chamber of commerce, downtown partnership, tourism council.

It wouldn’t be the first time, but right or wrong (and sometimes I think it’s wrong) the HPC has the final say on whether a building permit application inside the historic district proceeds to other city departments. There is no appeal except to the courts. The Mayor and Board have no power to grant a waiver of the HPC approval.

The more you examine what happened, the more ways you see the site and developer were a virtual foregone conclusion by the time of the RFP. Ed Wormald although his proposal, certainly his site, was much better for a viable hotel/cc wasn’t even taken seriously. It didn’t have a chance.
It certainly was a rigged procurement by City officials and the committees they controlled. They had decided on Plamondon and the FNP site and the ‘competition’ via RFP14J was a sham. The term bid rigging usually refers to the bidders colluding in some way to cheat the City or other procuring organization. This one was rigged on the City side. So I think you can say the City rigged this bid, and in that sense it was bid rigging.

Peter Samuel In my opinion a similar scale hotel building to the Plamondon plan would be acceptable between the Delaplaine and East St across the Carroll Creek Park promenades and canal from FNP & Birely, the so-called Galleria site. You already have the East All Saints St parking garage #5 right next to there. The garage is a similar bulk of building to a 5 or 6 story hotel 200 room hotel.

It would work so much better there with high visibility and access off East Street, parking right there in the parking deck that is only lightly used, and only a few steps more in the downtown walkability test.

FNP site could use a 3 story flipped-ell plan building running between the FNP bldg and the Eagles from E Patrick south to the edge of the park promenade, then west to S Carroll Street. It could be a small 60 to 80 room hotel or 30 rentals or condos or live-work spaces or retail or office or some mix of any such uses. That would allow the old FNP building and the Birely to be spared demo and renovated and restored. And a 3-story height limit would not clash with the buildings on E Patrick to the west of Carroll St.

2016.08.19

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