Excerpt from Frederick News-Post:
News that the latest design for the proposed downtown hotel and conference center definitely includes plans to demolish the historic Birely Tannery building attracted a small crowd Thursday to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting.
The agenda for the meeting was rather light, with only one item set for hearing and no consent items or other business listed. That was why it was a little curious that between 10 and 15 people sat inside the City Hall boardroom that night, several of whom stood up during the beginning swearing-in ritual, thus signifying they planned to speak.
After roughly 15 minutes of taking care of regular business, it was time for the public comment period. It was then that eight of the audience members stepped up one by one to the microphone in the name of saving the Birely Tannery building.
The first was Anthony Moscato, chairman of the Frederick Preservation Trust, a local historic preservation advocacy group. Moscato read a prepared statement that summarized the historic significance of the building, which was built in 1909 and was the last operating tannery site in the city of Frederick, according to his research. He pointed out that the Maryland Historical Trust determined the building and site belong on the National Register of Historic Places, thus further proving its historic significance.
Moscato’s push to save the tannery is not a new one, as he has criticized city officials for failing to include anyone with an historic viewpoint on a hotel advisory team that was formed to research the project and other elements of the project as it has moved forward.
Other speakers who advocated for the tannery and Fredrick’s overall history Thursday included Peter Samuel, a local resident and longtime vocal opponent of the downtown hotel project; Richard Jeffries, a Frederick native who recently returned to the city and wants to see Frederick’s history restored; Sam Tressler IV, manager of Archai Media downtown; Vivian Campbell Combs, the owner of an historic home near the tannery site; Beth Anderson, a resident who expressed concerns about commercializing the downtown area; and Rebecca Trussell, a Montgomery College professor who passionately discussed the importance of preserving local history.
The message was clear from the speakers that they want the tannery to remain standing and question the construction of what they believe will be a commercialized hotel that will ruin the historic integrity of the site where it is proposed.
Developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners are planning to construct a four-story, 180-room hotel and 20,000 square-foot conference center at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. The tannery building and an historic trolley building that once housed The Frederick News-Post are both part of the site. The latest design for the project proposes to demolish the dilapidated tannery building and repurpose the trolley building into a retail center, with plans to keep many of the historic elements.
The developers and architects are planning to submit a request to demolish the tannery building and plans to develop the hotel and conference to the Historic Preservation Commission in the near future. Historic Preservation Planner Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy said Thursday after the meeting that she had not yet received the paperwork.
The audience for the comments Thursday was also a little thin, as only four commissioners were in attendance. The commission is kind of small overall right now, though, with only six sitting members and two open spots.
The commissioners who attended Thursday’s meeting did not respond to the public comments, which is typical. Commission guidelines prevent commissioners from commenting on cases outside of the record.