Two summers ago the Downtown Hotel selection committee’s scorings of Plamondon versus Wormald were compiled in a spreadsheet that gave Plamondon a decisive winning score of 84 we were told. “Team Plamondon received the high score of 84.0 (winning) by a significant margin. The Selection Team is unanimous in its recommendation,” said an Executive Summary of the submission dated Aug 28, 2014 to the Mayor & Board of Aldermen for a workshop Sept 3, 2014.
But Wormald’s total score and the breakdowns of the scoring remained a mystery for more than two years. After many requests we’ve finally gotten the detailed scoring sheet. What follows is derived from that Excel spreadsheet.
Wormald scored 70.5 out of a possible 100. A shortfall of 13.5 points behind Plamondon was indeed a “significant margin.” Of 18 criteria Wormald only won one, Plamondon won in nine, while in eight criteria Plamondon and Wormald ranked equally. Quite a clearcut win for Plamondon on the numbers they generated.
Only it gets strange when you examine the details.
Wormald was given 8 points to Plamondon’s 5 for ‘Financial Capacity’ — Plamondon listed only $1.94m in assets vs $102.1m for Wormald and only $85k in net income to Wormald’s $3.1m. Poor Pete Plamondon is almost eligible for welfare! No contest. But I’d have scored that Wormald 8, Plamondon 2.
Under ‘Experience/References’ Plamondon won fair and square getting 9 to Wormald’s 7. Plamondon is hotels through and through. Wormald didn’t ever claim to know hotels but teamed with dpM Partners, a Gaithersburg based group that has managed hotels and consulted on them. dpM has broader experience but doesn’t have anything on Plamondon’s local Frederick knowledge.
In ‘Meeting Program Objectives’ Plamondon triumphed again with 9 points to Wormald’s 7.5 That scoring comprised five sub-scores of 2 points each. On three of the five they both scored fully. On the other two the scoring in favor of Plamondon is questionable.
On Parking Plamondon got 1, and Wormald 0. That’s screwy. Wormald’s proposal was clearly parking superior: making use via a walk bridge of the largely empty City Parking Deck 5 which is right alongside the Wormald hotel site, just as convenient as onsite parking. That would have provided revenue to the City and utilized a grossly underutilized piece of City infrastructure. Plamondon by contrast proposed 104 parking places onsite – about half what the hotel by itself needs with no provision for conference/event parking. I would have scored Plamondon 0.5/2, and Wormald 2/2 on parking. Also Parking deserves more than 2 points out of 100. More like 5/100 or even 8/100.
On the conference center the selection committee scoring gave 2 points for 21,165sf and Wormald 1.5 points for 15,000sf –although in recent times we’re told that the Plamondon conference center is only a net 15,000sf. It is unclear what the difference is. Still if more-is-better the 2Pl 1.5Wo makes sense.
Overall Design Concept a 10 pointer broken into four 2.5 point subsets is a highly subjective matter. Unique Character & Design sees Plamondon getting the full 2.5 points to Wormald 1. Mentioned in Plamondon’s column is the rooftop lounge, adaptive reuse of historic trolley building, a strong edge along Carroll St, use of the park frontage, reuse of Birely Tannery bricks in a hotel chimney. The last is absurd — making a virtue out of the unnecessary, unwarranted demolition proposed.
The “strong edge on Carroll St”statement is bizarre. The hotel’s edge on Carroll Street is dominated by a motor vehicle drop-off and turn-around between two wings of a U-plan building, in reality giving Carroll Street a very broken, disjointed edge. Use of the park frontage is good, something Wormald did not do. I don’t find either of building designs very interesting and cannot see much ‘unique’ about either. I’d have scored them Plamondon 2 to Wormald 1.5, but the Griffin selection team went Plamondon 2.5 (full score) to Wormald 1.
Design Sensitivity to Historic District/Buildings is a real travesty of scoring. Unbelievable! Plamondon was scored 2/2.5 and Wormald 1/2.5 on historic sensitivity. Consider: Plamondon proposes complete demolition and removal of the Birely Tannery and removal of half the Trolley building, and the proposed hotel at 6 floors looms over the mostly 2 story buildings on S Carroll and East Patrick streets. Wormald’s plan is way better because his plan doesn’t need to demolish anything. No building of any kind on his site, zero historic demolition. And its scale and mass fit with the existing Parking Deck #5. True it rather looms over the Delaplaine Center but in my opinion it better fits the setting and does way less damage to the historic ambience of the area. I would have scored them Pl 0.5 and Wo2 as opposed to the selection committee’s outrageous Pl2 and Wo1.
Green/Sustainable Design sees another unwarranted Plamondon win 2.5 points to 1.5 points. Wormald said “project designed to LEED standards,” while Plamondon “committed to LEED certification.” Both promised to design to LEED standards. A fair scoring would have given both 2.5 here. More Plamondon bias!
Building Orientation to Streets/Park deserves way more than 2.5/100 points. Visibility and direct access off a heavily trafficked arterial route deserve 10 or 15 points out of 100 because a significant number of visitors — who don’t book ahead — will stop at the hotel they see driving into town. If the project has a large meetings/event space, as the DH&CC has, then it’s important to have direct arterial road access to keep congestion down. East Street with its connection to the Interstates is key, and the Wormald Galleria site on East St, with vehicle drop-off and parking right there on All Saints fits the requirements of a major hotel. It is far superior to the Plamondon site with its vehicle drop-off point off South Carroll Street and two awkward additional left turns needed. Plus the Wormald doesn’t require more than a new left turn signalization on East St at All Saints, something that is going to be needed anyway. By contrast the Plamondon proposal requires a complete reworking of Patrick Street between East and Carroll streets, converting from one-way to two-way traffic, removal of curb parking, big changes to Carroll Street, new intersection treatments at two intersections. It isn’t even clear it is feasible, or desirable.
The selection team however scored them each 2/2.5. They should have been scored something like Pl0.5 and Wo2.5.
Summing those four under the awkward head Overall Design Concept the Griffin team gave Plamondon a huge win 9 points to Wormald 5.5. As discussed this was absurd and reflected a huge Plamondon bias. A reasonable scoring would have been Plamondon 5.5 to Wormald 8.5.
Economic Impact gets 10 possible points broken into four parts 2.5 each. Local Tax Revenue Generation is scored as another win to Plamondon 2 to Wormald 1 apparently based on property tax abatements requested by Wormald. Jobs/Payroll the two score equally. No quarrel with that. Project Value is a small win to Plamondon 2.5 to 2 for Wormald. The notes indicate they asses project value by some purely speculative notions of ‘catalytic’ or follow-on effects. Such follow-ons nearby are heavily dependent on whether the nearby sites are attractive for development in their own right. There is nothing automatic about follow-ons, although the happy talk suggests somehow those flow-on effects are inevitable. No one knows. The same is true for Induced Event/Conference Activity but they were scored equally: 2 each. I wouldn’t give any points for these items. What may or may not flow on be ‘induced’ is elusive. The project boosters’ logic would have you believe a wedding will only occur, a biotech conference will only be staged if there’s a new Marriott on Carroll Creek. More likely people who want to wed, or conferees who want to confer will find a venue to wed or confer whether or not there’s the new conference center hotel. So the main effect of opening a new Marriott conference center will be to take the event away from another event venue. What is ‘induced’ here will be, how do we say it, ‘disinduced’ elsewhere.
Now the scoring involves bigger numbers.
On Amount of Private Equity Plamondon wins big 13/15 vs Wormald 9/15, Plamondon offering to put up $14.4m vs Wormald $8.7m. I’ll go along with that. Amount of Public Support Required. Here Plamondon appears to have asked for more: $22.5m vs $13.1m plus some fee waivers and tax abatements. It is not clear Plamondon is asking for less in aggregate, but they scored Plamondon 13 to Wormald 9. I would have given each 9. The next one is bewildering: Creative Structure to Maximize Opportunity, whatever that means. Anyway they score 8 each so I’ll go with that. Same with Work Plan and Project Schedule.
My total for Wormald is 71.5 just one point higher than the selection committee’s score.
But I only give Plamondon 68.5 versus the selection committee score of 84. At the end I narrowly give the game to Wormald 71.5 to Plamondon 68.5 on the selection committee’s criteria.
I’d argue that the criteria gave far too much weight to intangibles and speculative issues, and not enough to historic preservation, visibility, access, and minimizing public financial support. Ease of access and visibility and parking are key to the success of a big hotel complex and should have been 30 points out of 100. In a historic district with historic charm a major draw with visitors, those historic issues should have been 20/100 points. The other 50 points should be inversely related to the project’s demand on the public purse — how much subsidy or public support they demanded. Everything else that was scored — the architectural design, supposed ‘catalytic’ effects of follow-on development are either matters of subjective opinion, or unknowable, and therefore a mix of guesses and wishful thinking. With sensible selection criteria weighting Wormald would have been the clear winner.
The lesson I take away is that this travesty of scoring provides yet more evidence that this was A Rigged Bid, the scoring shows such a strong bias for Plamondon and against Wormald on the part of the scorers. All the baloney about hiring Jones Lang LaSalle consultants to provide hotel development expertise collapses when you see the blatantly biased weighting of the selection criteria and the outrageous scoring.
We’ve previously documented how the City’s consultants from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) began working with Pete Plamondon’s proposal in November 2013, several months before the Request for Proposals (RFP) even went out, and continued right through the ‘blackout period’ between the RFP Release Date (Feb 20, 2014) and the Proposals Due Date (May 9, 2014.) Beautiful was the way it was set up to collaboratively work with Plamondon on their submission while the RFP was being written, and right through to the Due Date! The second bidder Wormald was managed to support the narrative of “great competition.” Plamondon and their Frederick News-Post site were already selected, so why waste time on Wormald? The JLL time-sheets show a heavily skewed allocation of consultant time showing that Wormald was a mere prop in a theatrical fiction. JLL billed $13,950 for work on Plamondon’s proposal, $12,555 being illegal work before the proposals’ Due Date of May 9, 2014 as compared to $1,473 for work on Wormald. Consultant time identified for work on the two proposals splits Plamondon 90.5%, Wormald 9.5%.
A final lesson is that the City should not be sponsoring a hotel, and it should not be selecting a business winner like this. PSam 2016.09.12