The applicants’ tall tales — submission to HPC, case HPC17-490

by Peter Samuel 2017.08.28 Commissioners: Central to the applicants’ narrative that the Birely Tannery building must be removed is the proposition that this site is clearly the best available for a downtown hotel and conference center. A veto on demolition, they imply, would doom the prospect for downtown lodging, which almost everyone wants. And on the #1 site, according to OPX and JLL, the City’s expert hotel consultants.

The applicants’ Memorandum on Bates Architects’ letterhead signed Jim and addressed to Ms Murphy dated June 15 is described as their summary case for demolition. It claims (p2):

“Each of the sites was evaluated by the consultant architect OPX as part of the initial market demand study to be appropriately sized to accommodate a 200-room full-service hotel and 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of meeting space. JLL also conducted a comprehensive criterion based analysis of the sites.

“Criteria:

  •  Catalyst for Downtown growth and revitalization;
  • Developer feedback (site preferences based on JLL interviews);
  • Ease of acquisition;
  • Site size (to accommodate hotel program);
  • Overall developability.

“Using these criteria, the subject site was ranked the highest of the four sites that were identified (Downtown Post Office Property, Old Frederick News Post Property, Wormald Property, Douglas Development Property (McHenry’s/Union Mills Property)).”

It’s all a tall tale.

OPX analysis is right there on the project website page in a two consultant report by Pinnacle and OPX. OPX didn’t rank the sites, saying merely that three closer-in sites (Post Office, FNP and Galleria) were better than another three sites (MARC station, Allegheny Power and Brickworks.)

See page 63 on at http://www.cityoffrederick.com/DocumentCenter/View/8349

As for the more recent site analysis by JLL I told the Commission in my previous submission that the City was refusing to release this. That was true when I wrote it but after a protest and some Board of Alderman intervention the City relented and I obtained a copy Aug 23. It is now downloadable from my hotel boondoggle website at the bottom of the following report:

http://frederickhotelboondoggle.us/2017/08/city-relents-and-releases-jll-site-analysis-it-does-not-rank-fnp-site-1-as-claimed-in-submission-to-hpc/

In short JLL did not rank the Frederick News-Post site #1. It did not rank sites, period. It comments on features of the sites, listing the pluses and minuses of each. I got the impression that if pressed the JLL people might well have said the Frederick News Post site was poorer than several other sites, but that depends on how much weight you place on different considerations.

JLL highlights serious problems with the FNP site. Access to the FNP site is difficult because JLL couldn’t see how the planning department would approve Patrick St driveways. So the site relied solely on circuitous travel to Carroll St. It also mentions the hotel’s lack of visibility for visitors from our gateway East St.

The size of the FNP site is barely adequate, JLL says even with the acquisition of an Eagles property.

JLL anticipated problems at the HPC, saying precisely that demolition approval would be “difficult to obtain.” It warned also that “Adaptive reuse of the tannery building will constrain optimal building design and configuration.” Also JLL noted that the Birely’s masonry structure is “solid” but that more study is needed… In other words JLL was doubtful a case for demolition could be made.

And JLL also raised the question of it being an archeological site.

They did discuss the positives of the FNP site – walkability, a lively retail and street scene nearby etc.

But the net characterization of the FNP site by JLL is not very positive. The Post Office site, the Galleria and the Brickworks sites have fewer negatives mentioned.

This JLL report is dated June 2013 eight or nine months before the City’s RFP was issued, so the applicants can’t say they weren’t warned. And it is plainly untrue as the applicants tell you that this was the highest rated site. That is a very tall tale.

Tall tales not new

The tall tales on behalf of this site aren’t new. Back in early 2014 the City was told in the body of the Plamondon proposal, the response to the RFP14J, on p180 under Key Milestone B that based on “extensive historical studies” conducted by the Plamondon team they were “confident that the buildings to be demolished are ‘non-contributing’ historically” and “fully satisfy the requirements of Section 423 of the Land Management Code for demolition.” Where are those “extensive historical studies”? They sound to me like another tall tale from these applicants.

Those solemnly swearing-in words about telling the whole truth, nothing but… etc are apparently, for these applicants, just HPC ritual and theater. Mustn’t let reality get in way of the spin. Or facts mess up the narrative. 2017-08-26

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