A downtown Frederick hotel and conference center? No public funds, please

Plans are now well afoot to use tax money and Maryland Stadium Authority public bonding to build a new conference center and hotel in downtown Frederick. I have no opinion (nor is it really my business) whether such a conference center and hotel deserve to get built, but if they do, they should stand on their own feet financially and not draw on taxpayers or their guarantees:

* I think the (R) majority of the county’s delegation in Annapolis are wise not to support a hike in the county’s hotel tax — paid by innkeepers and their customers county-wide, from New Market to Middletown to Emmitsburg — intended to channel funds to a conference center that would disproportionately benefit one downtown hotel.

* A public-sector Maryland Stadium Authority is not a proper function of government to begin with and letting it get into funding conference centers and the like makes everything worse. If the calamitous money pit that is the Baltimore Hilton convention center is not enough to give this sort of public bond-backed project a bad name in our state, what ever will? Just say no to MSA.

* Preservationists are up in arms about the project’s possible impact on one of Frederick’s chief tourism, lifestyle, and relocation selling points, its nationally famed, beautifully human-scale historic district. Without prejudging this debate, I would just note that in other cities, publicly funded trophy projects have badly hurt historic downtowns, leading to regret later.

If private demand for conference services is not sufficient to call forth private financing on the scale desired, maybe that should be a flashing amber light about the project as currently conceived.

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3 Comments

Filed under Policy

3 responses to “A downtown Frederick hotel and conference center? No public funds, please

  1. Walter Olson

    P.S. Some social media versions of this post display a stock picture of historic houses in downtown Frederick; not sure why this is happening, but it’s not a picture of the proposed hotel site.

  2. This is spot on. No public funds should be used to back this project. The hotel itself is almost certainly self-financing as a private investment. The “need” for public funding arises almost entirely from a 24,000 square foot $14 million conference center loaded onto the project that will generate trivial revenues and is thoroughly wasteful. That’s because downtown Frederick already has more than enough space for meetings, events, conferences. The City’s consultant Pinnacle Advisers recognized this and urged the space be kept to about half that proposed – proposed of course by officials and others putting none of their own money at risk. The old FSK Hotel diagonally opposite the county courthouse – now condos – was built in 1922 and was a successful hotel business for 50 years. Civic business leaders raised the money with a local share offering limited to a maximum 250 shares each. 1,200 Fredericktonians subscribed the capital needed, and were rewarded with both the hotel and annual dividends on their investment. Not a cent of taxpayer money was needed. We should emulate their example.
    Peter Samuel

  3. Pingback: In miniature, February 27 | Free State Notes

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