FRONT ROYAL – Following a closed session at its January 26 board meeting, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority announced the purchase of two commercial properties, one each in the Stephen’s Industrial Park and Happy Creek Technology Park. Purchased were the Atlantic Exhibit property at 426 Baugh Drive and the Hipp building located at 999 Shenandoah Shores Road.
Following adjournment of the meeting, EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald explained that Atlantic Exhibits plans to leave the facility they rent from Westrock LLC by January 2019. Display booth manufacturer Atlantic Exhibits has been at the 13.9-acre Baugh Drive site since 2007. The EDA has a replacement manufacturing prospect for the property.
According to a flyer on the property’s sale, the 76,800 square-foot industrial building includes a 12,000 s.f. office and 76,800 s.f. warehouse, with 100,000 s.f. of expansion capability.
“The acquisition of the Atlantic Exhibits property ensures that the EDA will be able to recruit a manufacturing tenant to replace the jobs lost at the facility,” County Administrator Doug Stanley said, adding, “Too often when these facilities turn over they end up as warehouse space, resulting in a loss of jobs and tax base for the community. With the expansion capability of the facility I am confident that the EDA will ultimately be able to bring in a manufacturing tenet that will provide higher paying jobs and additional investment to bolster our local tax base.”
On a motion by Ron Llewellyn, seconded by William Biggs, the EDA agreed to pay owner Westrock LLC $5.3 million for the property. The property had been offered at $5,750,000.
The 48,610 square-foot Hipp building purchase was from owner Ranson LLC, at a price of $3,039,125. Llewellyn again made the motion to purchase, this time seconded by new board member Dr. Thomas Patteson. Tenants of the fully-occupied building include Intellectual Holdings, Architectural Old Home Parts and Absolute Floors.
Both purchases are subject to appraisals and inspections, McDonald noted.
Chick-fil-A and …
During Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley’s summary of recent county business, the pending arrival of Chick-fil-A at the Riverton Commons Shopping Center in the Route 340/522 Corridor was announced. The Chick-fil-A plan to demolish and rebuild at the long-vacant Capitol One/Chevy Chase Bank building site near the intersection of Route 340 and Country Club Road was a major topic at the Development Review Committee meeting two days earlier. Stanley said the county planning department review of the site plan is anticipated to be completed in 30 to 45 days and that work at the one-and-a-half acre site could begin this spring.
A decade ago Chick-fil-A was part of the early corridor development “soap opera” revolving around the town-county corridor agreement’s initial implementation of a dual town and county meals tax, the former being attached to town water bills for commercial corridor clients. And with that dual tax done away with in the wake of a lawsuit filed by three corridor restaurants in 2009-10, Chick-fil-A is finally back.
After the vacant bank building is demolished, Chick-fil-A plans to replace it with a 5,000 s.f. restaurant, with seating for over 100 customers and two drive-thru windows. The Atlanta, Georgia area-based fast-food chain specializing in chicken sandwiches has over 2,200 restaurants, primarily located in the U.S.
Despite being closed Sundays, Chick-fil-A is at or near the top of the fast food industry with an estimated $4.8 million in average sales per restaurant – good news for the County, and to some extent the Town’s, future meals tax revenues.
Stanley also noted that crafts retailer Michael’s has received building permits to remodel the old Staples building across Route 340/522 in the Crooked Run Shopping Center. Staples left the site in he second half of 2017.
The County did not receive a proposal for operational management, leasing of the Front Royal Golf Club Stanley by the January 25 deadline a day earlier, Stanley told the EDA board. However, discussion with a prospect continues and re-advertisement for proposals with some changes from the original is currently out. The deadline for submission on that advertisement is 2 p.m., February 5.
Stanley also reported that Judge Ronald Napier had granted the County’s request to dismiss Sysco’s lawsuit appealing its real estate tax assessment. His report stated, “The County had hired outside counsel, Sands-Anderson and aggressively fought the appeal.”
On the Town side of development it was noted that the downtown Front Royal Brewing Company site is under construction with a targeted opening date in late February. A rezoning application for the new Warren Memorial Hospital site off Leach Run Parkway has been submitted with a town planning commission review slated for a late January work session.
Town Manager Joe Waltz lauded the Town’s late receipt of a $700,000 State-awarded Community Development Block Grant for physical improvements to the Town’s Historic Downtown Business District.
And speaking of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown, Waltz’s report noted that Afton Inn purchaser MODE Development Partnership continues to explore any tax credit opportunities that could bring the cost of some degree of preservation of the 150-year-old brick shell down to a manageable level. The town council overruled the town board of architectural review recommendation that full demolition of downtown’s oldest, but long derelict commercial building not be allowed. However, granted authority to enact its demo and rebuild plan, MODE has first elected to give some degree of rehabilitation a final look. MODE estimated as much as $600,000 in additional costs to save the Afton Inn’s crumbling, outer brick structure dating to 1868. The company’s initial plan is for commercial tenants on the first floor and upscale apartments on the top two floors.