“Extensive historical studies” supported proposed hotel demolition and perverse scoring — what they’d like the Historic Preservation Commission to forget NOTES

NOTES FOR COMMENT AT HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION: I’d like to speak to a couple of things that proponents of the City sponsored hotel would rather you forgot, and which are unlikely to be referenced in the large packet of documents being prepared for this case by Plamondon the City’s favored hotel developer and the City Department of Economic Development. The word is the submissions are coming your way within a week or two.

First when they committed to this site the developer and City DED officials said they were sure that the Birely Tannery building and the southern half of the News Post building were non-contributing, and that their demolition and removal would be approved by this Commission. I’ll read from the Plamondon proposal to the city dated May 9, 2014, three years ago:

“HPC approval of this demolition request is essential to the design, feasibility, and parking requirement for the Hotel Project. Based on extensive historical studies already conducted by the Plamondon Development Team, (the Plamondon company) PHP is confident that the buildings to be demolished are ‘non-contributing’ historically, and fully satisfy the criteria in Section 423 of the LMC for demolition.” (p180 of the Part 4 of the Proposal in response to RFP #14J dated May 9, 2014 under Key Milestone B: HPC Demolition and Replacement)

Richard Griffin, the City’s hotel project manager encouraged the thinking that this is a worthless wreck of a building, dismissing it in Talking Points he distributed to supporters via the Downtown Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce as “dilapidated” and an obvious subject for the wrecking ball.

They didn’t at any point consult with the City’s historic preservation staff or with any local preservation groups like Landmarks or the Frederick Preservation Trust. The Trust I know tried to get included in the Mayor’s hotel advisory team and were rebuffed. There is no mention in the winning proposal of the need to get clearance from the Maryland Historical Trust because of the requirement in state law that when state funds are wanted in a historic district MHT must be consulted on the historic significance and the plans.

Nevertheless they had conducted “extensive historical studies” by 2014 the proposer bragged, though we’ve never seen those studies, or learned which historians conducted them.

Last fall they finally put their case to the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) that the Birely Tannery was historically unimportant. They didn’t make the case. They were firmly rebuffed. The Birely Tannery building was found by MHT to be a ‘contributing resource’ to the Frederick Historic District, and much more than that, it was found to be Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Quoting: “The Trust has determined that the building contributes to the significance of the National Register-listed Frederick

Birely Tannery building

Historic District (F-3-39). Frederick was a center of the tanning industry in the Central Maryland region, with as many as eight tanneries in operation in the early 20th century. The Birely operation was established ca 1830 and remained engaged in leather production until 1952, making it the longest lived tannery in the city. The existing building constructed in 1909 (in its present form PSam) retains sufficient integrity to reflect its association with the industrial history of Frederick…. (it) remains a contributing resource to the Frederick Historic District.” (p180 of the Part 4 of the Proposal in response to RFP #14J dated May 9, 2014 under Key Milestone B: HPC Demolition and Replacement)

They said this is historically a very important building. And it is the last remaining tannery building in the state of Maryland.

I’d suggest that you should ask about the “extensive historical studies” Plamondon said they’d done, and ask them how they could have been so misled as to its historical significance.

Two proposals

The hotel team got proposals for hotels and conference centers on the chosen News-Post site and on the so-called Galleria site just across the creek that has no historic buildings, no buildings at all.

They won’t, I guess, put in your packet the scoring sheets for the two proposals. These are an eye opener.

The proposals were scored out of 100 broken down into criteria like Financial Capacity scored out of 10 points, Past Experience 10 points, Economic Impact 10 points, Amount of Private Equity 15 points, Work Plan and Project Schedule 10 points, and, my favorite of nerdy gobbledegook, Creative Structure to Maximize Opportunity 10 points.

Historic preservation termed Design Sensitivity to Historic District/Buildings got 2.5 points.

2.5 out of 100, that’s how important the City’s hotel selection team ranked historic preservation.

Site B was chosen, Site C was the losing bid

The scores they gave the two proposals are bizarre. Plamondon on the News-Post site was scored 2 out of 2.5 and Wormald on the Galleria site only 1 out of 2.5.

That point deserves repetition. The City hotel team thought the proposal on the clear site, the site not requiring any demolition, was less respectful of the historic district and deserving of only 1 point out of 2.5 whereas a design that requires demolition of the Tannery and the southern half of the Trolley building deserves 2/2.5.

Points for demolition!

They got this site with perverse scoring. It was this which procured a developer who claimed that “extensive historical studies” he’d conducted gave him confidence that demolition would be readily gain your support, the support of this Commission.

NOTE: These notes I prepared for the HPC open comment session in City Hall May 25. The actual speech I made was largely ad lib, and somewhat different in detail. P Sam

Video of the hearing and the six or seven speakers on the hotel project can be viewed here:


Comments on the hotel begin at about the 7 minutes in.

archived videos of meetings http://www.cityoffrederick.com/901/City-Online-Meetings


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