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A 213-room Hotel and Convention Center in Early Planning
 Stages for Downtown Frederick, Maryland

By Ed Waters Jr. and Patti S. Borda, The Frederick News-Post, Md.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

October 13, 2010 --Real estate developer Earl "Rocky" Mackintosh is urging city officials to strongly consider his property downtown for a hotel and convention center.

Mackintosh owns what the city calls "Site F," an almost acre-sized lot on the corner of South East and East All Saints streets.

Mackintosh has talked with city officials about the site, initially seen for an office building with conference rooms to be known as One Commerce Plaza.

Mackintosh said his plan would combine his site plus these city sites: a parcel planned for the sixth parking deck, the "bean factory" at 5 Commerce St. and a paved parking lot. Together these four sites would total 2.59 acres.

The National Park Service leases 5 Commerce St. through 2013. The location trains Park Service employees how to preserve historic sites.

Mackintosh said he wants to be present at any discussion of that lease.

"While the Park Service lease generates about $24,000 in income from Jenkins Cannery building, the city receives little to no property tax revenue from that parcel. Once developed into a conference center, the city's share of property tax revenue alone could bring in triple that number," Mackintosh said.--

Mackintosh paid $1.15 million for the land in 2005. "Since that time we have improved the value substantially to an appraised value of well over $2 million a couple of years ago. But due to the economic conditions, a recent appraisal has the number at around $2 million."

Mackintosh said the city wouldn't have to be the buyer of the land. "The plan, as I understand it, is that the city and hotel committee will pick a site and then select a hotel developer who will acquire the property. In addition, we are open to partnering with that developer or selling the site," Mackintosh said.

The hotel and conference center could cost an estimated $40 million to $45 million.

The site is one of several that a special committee has been considering since it was formed to research the possibility of a downtown hotel and convention center, said Rick Weldon, executive assistant to Mayor Randy McClement.

The Pinnacle Advisory Group, a consulting firm, offered a list of six possible sites, and the committee sought further suggestions.

Mackintosh's is one.

Pinnacle Advisory suggested a combined hotel and convention center with retail, ballroom and conference space close to Carroll Creek Park. Mackintosh incorporates those suggestions.

"We envision that a five-story hotel with 213 rooms would sit on Site F and include retail, restaurant and lobby area on the first level, facing All Saints Street, as well as a fifth-floor swimming pool and fitness center with perimeter hotel suites or multipurpose rooms," Mackintosh said.

The hotel would be linked to the proposed 750-space multi-level parking deck and the "bean factory" buildings, so called because they were once part of the large Jenkins Cannery that operated on the site.

The "bean factory" buildings would house a 5,500-square-foot ballroom, which Mackintosh describes as "the core of the conference center."

Mackintosh said his site offers the largest site closest to the center of downtown. While others, including the nearby Frederick Brickworks property at South East and South streets, are larger, his is within a block of Carroll Creek.

Reuse of historic buildings is another aspect of Mackintosh's plan, as well as being located across from the MARC train station.

"While we pursued the idea of an office-retail building on the property, the current economic climate has slowed the possibility of a fast absorption of new tenants for the property," Mackintosh said. "In addition, the city's decision to delay the building of the 750-space Deck 6 for five years or more essentially causes Site F to be undevelopable for that period of time, no matter what the real estate market conditions."

Combining the land allows the city to offer a larger tract at a lower cost to a developer, Mackintosh said.

"It offers the city a lot more flexibility," he said.

Weldon said a public-private partnership may be able to finance the project. In that case, funds from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Maryland Stadium Authority may be available, he said. Mackintosh said the building could be LEED-certified, if it meets required sustainable design features. He sees adaptive use of the building, that the majority of parking will be undercover, potential for a vegetated roof for the ballroom and use of energy-efficient materials and systems as ways to potentially meet LEED requirements.

"It's a viable proposal," Weldon said, but not the only one. "We've heard from three different entities."

He said not all of them were ready to make their plans public.

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To see more of the Frederick News-Post or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.fredericknewspost.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

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