Frederick officials are closing in on hiring a consultant to help navigate a long-gestating, downtown hotel and conference center project.
Earl Robbins, Jr., the chairman of Downtown Frederick Hotel Advisory Committee, and Richard Griffin, the city’s Director of Economic Development, briefed the Frederick Board of Aldermen at a meeting Wednesday.
They recommended the five-member board hire Jones Lang LaSalle, a national commercial real estate firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The firm would be paid $157,000 to guide the city through the process of selecting a site for the downtown hotel, which is planned to have approximately 200 rooms and about 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
The consultant will provide advice, analysis and other information to the downtown advisory committee, which would be responsible for selecting a site, a development team, and financing for the project, according to documents provided to the aldermen.
“The purpose of retaining the consultant is to help us do two things — select the site and select the development team that would ultimately build this facility,” Griffin said. “This is not something we’ve done before in this community.”
Jones Lang LaSalle was one of nine groups that bid on the project, with their cost landing in the middle of bids, Robbins said.
Alderman Karen Young (D) asked to see the top four consultants for comparison purposes before voting, and several other aldermen agreed. The names of the other top candidates were not immediately available.
The hotel project has been in the works since 2010, when the city conducted a demand analysis to determine if the city needed such a downtown project.
That study was updated in 2012, and determined there was a need for a hotel and large meeting space to serve the local business community.
The study, which is published on the city’s website, cites the area’s population growth over the last 20 years, its lack of meeting space available to businesses and hotel rooms for tourism. It estimates that a hotel would bring in about $16.5 million per year, as well as additional spending in Frederick’s restaurants and shops.
Previous estimates for the project have pegged the cost of building the hotel at about $45 million. In July, city officials presented six potential sites for the hotel, including: 186 E. South St., 421 E. Patrick St., 107 E. South St., 100 S. East St. and 201 E. Patrick St.
Funding for the city’s portion of the project comes from a $250,000 state bond bill approved by the Maryland House of Delegates. The city matched those funds with $250,000 from its capital improvement budget.
The city hopes to find a private company to begin construction of the hotel by December 2015, according to documents presented to the aldermen.
Alderman Karen Young (D) asked Griffin what would happen if another private developer came forward looking to build a hotel downtown without the city’s input.
In that case, he said the consultant would be an asset in evaluating what type of hotel that company would be building, and determining how viable the project would be.
“Just because someone brings something forward does not mean it meets the thing we are anticipating,” Griffin said. “Our hope is if the [developer] were to appear, it’d be a good one. In the absence of anyone moving forward, we just keep methodically moving forward.”
Griffin said the vote on a consultant would likely be at the board’s public hearing on Feb. 21.