The Evolution of Frederick Brickworks: From Legacy to Development

A Journey Through Time

Established in 1891 on a 63-acre farm south of town, the Frederick Brick Works became synonymous with quality craftsmanship, producing renowned bricks known as Frederick Reds. Thriving due to its strategic location near the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and rich clay deposits, the company weathered economic challenges, including halts during the Great Depression and World War II. In 1946, brick production ceased permanently, but Brick Works continued crafting construction materials until its relocation in 2007 to 1731 Monocacy Blvd, where production still continues today.

The Initial Proposal 

Fast forward to January 17, 2023, when the City of Frederick was presented with a momentous plan in front of the Planning Commission in City Hall. Developer Greenberg Gibbons presented an ambitious proposal for the largest development in the City’s history—a transformative project on the 61+ acre former Brickworks site at East Street and South Street. The plan outlined 1260 residential units, a 130,000 sq ft commercial area, and a hotel, envisioning a vibrant ‘town center’ akin to modern complexes in Annapolis and Columbia. 

There were no question that the property needed to be developed but after months of workshops, charettes, and City dollars put into the development of the East Street Form-Based Code (FBC), this left many wondering how the Code would play into the approval of the newly proposed Brickworks project, a major gateway into historic Downtown Frederick. 

Agenda Item: Brickworks Master Plan

On June 20th, Greenberg Gibbons presented their Master Plan for the Brickworks project to the City Planning Commission. The 30-minute presentation sparked a Q&A session, with focused inquiries on key issues such as approval timelines and City’s form-based code adoption, potential public health concerns from the site’s industrial history, connectivity challenges with the downtown grid, on-site school locations, commitment to building Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs), and designs for the crucial corner of South and East Streets. 

The next few months were followed with packed boardroom meetings, additional Brickworks workshops held by the Planning Commissioners, and a plethora of public comments submitted by residents and community organizations. By mid October, the Planning Commission approved the Greenberg Gibbons’ Master Plan proposal but with nine conditions. Although many community residents were not pleased with the approval, the conditions tackle some of the most critical concerns surrounding the proposal:

Brickworks Master Plan

Environment Commitment

Residents expressed worries about environmental contaminants at Brickworks, prompting GG to commit to remediation with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Condition #9 requires MDE certification before construction begins on any section, acknowledging potential environmental hazards during remediation.

Parkland Placement

 Debates centered around the newly proposed green space’s location on the west side of East Street, the only real green space for more than 1,200 residential units. The proposed park posed accessibility challenges, such as having to cross high-trafficked 4-lane arterial roads as well as no parking plans to accommodate the users of the park. The Planning Commission mandated a 3-acre dedicated park within the project area, addressing concerns for over 1,200 residential units.

Building Setbacks and Code Adherence:

The developer requested modified setbacks and unique architecture were denied by the Planning Commission, emphasizing that these modifications are necessary to attract a premier organic grocery store to the site. Not only did the developer ask for substantial changes to the LMC to modify its requirements to fit the needs of a retail vendor, the plan is contrary to the long-awaited Form Based Code (FBC) for the East Street Corridor ( Residents echo the sentiment that the extensively crafted FBC should guide all future Brickworks plans.

The Revised Condition

A week post-approval, Greenberg Gibbons sought a reconsideration of the environmental review condition. On December 11th, Commissioners voted to revise Condition 9, clarifying the process for obtaining building permits post-contamination mitigation.

The amended condition states that the developer must submit a No Further Requirements Determination decision or approved Response Action Plan from the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to acquire building permits for each section. If no hazards are found, MDE could issue a No Further Requirements Determination. If MDE does find hazards, it will then require Greenberg Gibbons to prepare the Response Action Plan to deal with the contamination. Once sections with an approved Response Action Plan have dealt with the contamination, MDE will award the developer with a certificate of completion, with which the developer can bring before the City to obtain building permits.  

What now?

As of right now, Greenberg Gibbons is still awaiting a decision from MDE to whether they will need a No Further Requirements Determination or if they will have to produce a Response Action Plan. The Form-Based Code is still awaiting codification and our organization is pushing ahead with their support for the Code. We urge the City of Frederick to approve the Form-Based Code as the region is expected to see continued interest and growth from all sides whether that be East Street’s redesign or new development approvals. 

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