Frederick’s plan for a downtown hotel should appeal to hotel developers, according to a viability study released Thursday, but one major developer wants the city to be specific about the availability of public help for the project.
“Why would anyone commit before they know what the support is going to be for a public partnership?” Michael M. Dickens, president of Hospitality Partners, a hotel management and development company in Bethesda, said in an interview.
Dickens was one of about 40 who attended a presentation of the updated hotel study at City Hall Thursday. The 160,000 square foot full service hotel is billed as a public-private partnership, but the hotel itself will be privately owned and operated, with no public subsidy. Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said there may be opportunities for assistance with associated infrastructure.
The project’s partners include Frederick city, the Frederick Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Frederick Partnership. The city hopes to select a site in early fall, and plans to ask hotel developers to send in proposals by November so the project can get under way in the beginning of 2013. Plans call for a 200-room hotel with meeting space and a ballroom to accommodate between 600 and 700 people.
Following the presentation of the 57-page study, Dickens, whose company manages such properties as the Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, Washington Suites Alexandria in Alexandria Va., and Townplaces Suites at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, asked what benefits developers will receive.
“We’d like to have at least some quasi-understanding of the public portion of the project,” he said.
Griffin said the city is open to “a number of possibilities,” such as a new parking deck that is scheduled to be built downtown, and tax increment financing, an option that creates funding for public or private projects by borrowing against the future increase in property-tax revenues.
“Until we have a site selected, we don’t want to commit a single dollar more than we have to, and preferably none to get the facility constructed,” Griffin said.
The city spent $30,000 on a 2010 study, and received a $20,000 state grant towards the $25,000 updated 2012 study. The city also budgeted $250,000 in its capital budget to match a $250,000 state bond bill procured by Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick to pay for preliminary planning and design.
Earl Robbins, retired government affairs officer with Eastalco in Frederick, heads the hotel team that is overseeing the hotel project. Robbins told the crowd at City Hall that a full service hotel will “help cement the revitalization of downtown.” The hotel is expected to generate an estimated 280 jobs, $16 million in direct spending, $9 million in personal earnings and $1.9 million in state and local taxes.
Susan Sieger, president of Crossroads Consulting Services who produced the 2012 study, said during Thursday’s presentation that “it is a good time in terms of political will to get things done.”
Sieger was optimistic about the potential for the hotel, and said “it’s nice to be able to deliver a positive message.”