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As Long as We Remember...

October 18, 2010

Hotel/Conference Centerís Top 10 List

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

The revitalization of Downtown Frederick has made the city a genuine arts, entertainment and recreation destination for residents of Frederick County as well as for visitors. The Tourism Council of Frederick County reports that a record number of hotel room nights were booked in Frederick County in 2009, despite the economic downturn.


Unfortunately, however, none of those rooms were booked in downtown Frederick because there are no hotel rooms downtown.


Our community needs a downtown hotel and conference center! The results of a study commissioned by the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and the City of Frederick indicated downtown could support a 200-room hotel and 14,000 square foot conference facility. While several sites have been discussed, we recently submitted a plan to the city that we believe will put the others to bed.


On September 23rd MacRo, Ltd. presented a proposal to the city which combines their Site G, which includes the planned 750-space parking garage # 6 as well as the historic Jenkins Cannery (aka “Bean Factory”) building currently leased by the National Park Service, with Site F which is owned by One Commerce Plaza, LLC (OCP), of which MacRo is a partner.


Sites F and G are within the city’s Carroll Creek Overlay district and are just one block from Carroll Creek Linear Park. We had planned to develop a retail/office building on Site F, but with the city’s decision to delay Garage #6, our group saw an opportunity to create a win-win scenario to create the much needed hotel/conference facility in downtown Frederick.


The combination of these two sites totals more than 2.5 acres and thus is large enough to support our plan for a five-story hotel with 213 rooms and retail, restaurant and lobby areas as well as a fifth floor swimming pool and fitness center and an adjoining 18,000 square foot conference center. So, with apologies to David Letterman, I’d like to offer my Top 10 Reasons why our plan is the best plan.


10. Bigger is Better: Our plan offers the largest site in close proximity to the center of downtown Frederick.


9. Roll Out the Welcome Mat: The site is the closest to the new gateway to downtown, the highly visible, high-traffic East Street interchange at I-70 and Maryland Route 355/85, and is adjacent to the new Tourism Council Visitors’ Center.


8. The Train, The Train! This site is across the street from the downtown MARC/Amtrak station, which offers direct service to and from Washington, D.C., and points beyond.


7. Everything Old is New Again: The adaptive reuse of the Jenkins Cannery building will create a conference facility that will showcase the unique historic nature of the property.


6. Show Me the Money: Because the sixth garage is an integral part of the hotel/conference center, there may be an opportunity to seek alternative sources of funding such as Maryland State Stadium Authority funds, bond and/or possible TIF packages, which could fast-track the garage construction.


5. Ramp-Up the Revenue: A hotel conference center will provide more round-the-clock usage of parking deck #6 and will speed up revenue generation from the deck. In addition while the Park Service lease generates about $24,000 in income from the Jenkins Cannery building, the city receives no property tax revenue from the parcel. Once developed into a Conference Center, the city’s share of property tax revenue alone could bring in $65,000 to $75,000 a year!


4. The Price is Right: Because the city owns the remainder of Site G, and Site F being only 32 percent of the combined land area, the city and the eventual developer will likely be able to keep the land cost lower than any other site.


3. Flexibility is Key: The Site F ownership group is willing to sell to, or partner with the eventual hotel developer, at fair market terms.


2. Good Neighbors Are Hard to Find: From an architectural perspective, the project complies with the intent of the Carroll Creek Overlay Design Guidelines and is compatible with Frederick’s historic character.


1. This Plan LEEDs the Way: The building design and proposed construction include many “green benefits.”


As many have read that the National Park Service is now aggressively moving to get their lease extension signed as soon as possible, we are hoping that the mayor and Board of Aldermen will hold off on action until all sites are properly vetted.


If you’d like to offer your support, learn more or comment on our plan, please feel free to reach out!


Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for The MacRo Report Blog.


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