Frederick city has decided to tear down two building fronts on South Market Street to make way for new construction.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to demolish the facades at 58-62 and 66-70 S. Market St., which give the illusion that buildings occupy the space.
Instead, there is just vacant land behind the fronts — some of which have boarded and broken windows.
The facades were left in 2000 when the buildings behind them were determined to be too dangerous to keep standing, according to city documents. The properties initially were damaged in the flood of 1976, and their condition deteriorated over the years until they were too unsafe to keep standing.
According to the Maryland Department of Assesments and Taxation, the property at 58 S. Market St. is worth $240,300, and the building at 56 S. Market St. is worth $189,000. The database does not have listings for the 66-70 S. Market St. property.
At the time, the commission opted to keep the facades, with the intent that new development could use them as part of their design, but no construction ever began.
Scott Winnette, the chairman of the commission, agreed with staff findings that the facades didn’t contribute to the character of downtown or add historical value.
“It would have been delightful if there were buildings still there,” he said. “But I agree with the staff report and the applicant that I can’t find them contributing.”
Tarek Aly, one of three owners who purchased the space at auction last year, said the plan for the spaces, as well as the adjacent building at 56 S. Market St., is to have a combination of retail and apartments, with between 18 and 20 apartments and three retail spaces available after construction is complete. Those plans have yet to be approved by the commission.
Michael Simons, who voted to keep the facades, said after the meeting that he would have preferred to see the structures blended with the new development.
“I think the city’s going to lose part of its history by losing those facades,” Simon said. “I think they could have been incorporated into a new design.”
At least one neighbor is happy to see the facades coming down. Dan Shykind, one of the owners of Downtown Piano Works, at 74 S. Market St., said he was happy to see the facades coming down in favor of new development, as long as the buildings fit in with the established aesthetic of the area.
“Just having the front there is like living in an Old West town,” he said, laughing. “We’re happy as long as [the new buildings are] tasteful and within the character of the street.”
Gil House, a Frederick County historian who spoke at the meeting, also was in favor of tearing down the structures.
“Whatever the applicant does, I think, is going to be much better streetscape than what’s there now,” he said.
A preservation commission hearing to discuss the new construction is scheduled for Aug. 9, but Aly said it may be postponed to allow enough time for design work to be completed.