City HP planner Lisa Murphy thinks new hotel plan OK on Creek but fails on Patrick St

In a staff  report on plans for the new hotel (HPC17-491) City historic preservation (HP) staff planner Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy (Murphy) slams the design for not meeting City historic preservation Guidelines on maintaining the streetscape along East Patrick Street. She writes: “The proposed design does not address the setback established along Patrick Street. Instead the building is sited toward the rear of the property and is more closely related to Carroll Creek Linear Park. The design does not respond to the predominant setback and spacing pattern established by the historic streetscape along Patrick Street.”

The preservation staffer thinks there is “an opportunity for this project to reinforce the historic streetscape patterns and the human scale typical of the historic district.”

This is in effect a recommendation that the whole hotel layout be recast with building at the edge of the Patrick Street sidewalk, rather than the open double driveway arrangement proposed.

Her report notes that along Carroll Street (the west) the design does “maintain the setback line” of the historic railway terminal, but qualifies that “but with a drive court.”

She comments that  the southern hotel frontage to the park “generally fits the location, setback, and footprint of other new development along the park.”

Her report seems to approve of the general treatment along the creek park frontage saying the flat roof forms are compatible with the historic and other industrial and service buildings and new construction.

Plus: The mass of the building on the creek frontage is “broken up into various planes” with setbacks at higher levels and various materials “in a way that lessens the impact on the streetscape.”

Murphy comments that use of brick cladding and a contrasting material “corresponds generally with that of the historic building.” Spacing of window bays in the hotel relate to the historic building too, she writes.

In HPC17-492 the application for permits for renovating the old Railway Terminal building (aka Frederick News-Post or Trolley Building) Murphy highlights problems, checking the box which says No to ‘This application meets submission requirements, and ‘Partial’ to whether it meets the Commission’s Guidelines.

Murphy says that altering the openings (for doors and windows) and walls on the east and west sides of the building is “not recommended.” That is because quoting the Guidelines: “Altering the openings and walls in a way not documented by photographic our physical evidence… detracts from the building’s historic character.”

COMMENT: The effort to maintain a historic streetscape scale, I think, makes sense, and Murphy has a strong case that the hotel plan should be redone to support the Patrick St frontage which is quite unsuitable for driveways. The pair of driveways on East Patrick is an awful piece of design, not least for car drivers. see: http://frederickhotelboondoggle.us/2017/07/unsafe-unsightly-entryexit-arrangements-proposed-for-dhcc-on-east-patrick-st/

Ms Murphy is doing her job reminding the Commissioners and the applicants of the Guidelines’ details on new buildings in the historic district. On the new hotel I find this whole exercise of passing judgment on new construction unnecessary and so subjective as to be rather arbitrary. Historic preservation has over-reached, I believe, in attempting to manage the detail of new construction. The HPC should, I think, be focussed on its core role of protecting and reviving interesting historic buildings and maintaining general streetscape character.

The staff report’s suggestion that every wall opening of the trolley building be kept as-is or as-it-was at some point (Which point?) in the past reflects a purist fanaticism. It is also completely illogical. Buildings like this were frequently added to, adapted and changed over their life and it is unclear that any particular configuration of any specific past date represents a uniquely legitimate baseline for historic preservation.  ‘Historic character’ is elusive at that level of detail, and HPC rulings are therefore inherently arbitrary.

That’s my opinion. Such an opinion is NOT held by the Historic Preservation Commission or those who wrote the Land Management Code or Guidelines, or by many good preservationists.

So long as City code supports expansive HPC powers over the detail and materials of new or rehabbed construction the downtown hotel project must, as a matter of fairness, be treated like any other building proposal in the historic district. As many downtown residents have learned you are expected to live with a maddeningly capricious petty tyranny over the details of your home & garden. Or store, or church, or … hotel.

Bert Anderson, Frederick’s most successful developer downtown once advised: ‘Buy just outside the historic district boundary.’ According to his formula the place for a Marriott would be on the Brickworks site southeast of the intersection of East and South Streets. The two-legged roundabout on East Street off I-70 is readymade access.

NEXT HPC ACTIVITY ON HOTEL: Thursday 27th

The Historic Preservation Commission has its next session Thursday July 27 starting 6pm in the main hearing room on the south side of the main floor of City Hall. The hotel project only comes up at the end of the Workshop Agenda. The Commission has ten cases to be heard and ruled on before the workshops begin.  There are six workshop items, three on the hotel and they are the last three, items 14, 15 and 16:

14.  HPC17-490 on changes to the hotel project to allow preservation of the Birely Tannery

15. HPC17-491 a Level I permit (one of two) for the proposed new hotel complex’s design

16. HPC17-492 Rehabilitation plan for Railway Building

The agenda and staff reports for the whole evening’s proceedings are here: http://www.cityoffrederick.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2750

2017.07.26

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