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Warrenton Town Council members voted Tuesday night to purchase the former BB&T building on Main Street.

 

The Warrenton Town Council agreed Tuesday night at its monthly meeting to move ahead with plans to purchase the former BB&T building at 21 Main St. for $2.2 million – $100,000 less than anticipated. The reduction in price was negotiated by Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer after a 90-day study period revealed that asbestos remediation, IT infrastructure and other modifications would be necessary.

After renovations estimated at $195,000 and repairs estimated at $550,000, the building will be converted into a new Town Hall for Warrenton. The cost for the project is estimated at $3.2 million.

The town voted in May to begin negotiations to purchase 21 Main St,; the current Town Hall at 18 Court St. is 46 years old and not adequate for the current town staff.  

Now that the 90-day study period has concluded, a memo provided by Schaeffer to council members about the state of the building concludes, “The current space limitations and needed upgrades in the existing Town Hall, the renting of space on the private market, and the opportunity 21 Main Street presents for a multigenerational investment for the town has led to a recommendation that the structure be purchased and be used for a new Town Hall. Potential collaboration with the county on meeting space that could better serve our citizenry, adequate space for staff, along with further alleviating parking pressure by removing staff from on street parking, makes this an attractive and timely opportunity.”

Warrenton real estate agent Anne Hall during citizen's time expressed her hope that the building on Main Street could be developed into a boutique hotel rather than a Town Hall. She admitted that her idea may be too late, but said that perhaps a group of investors could be convinced to build a hotel, which would fill the town coffers rather than empty them.

During a discussion of the purchase, council members emphasized that the BB&T building has been on the market for several years already and is being offered at an attractive price. Town Councilman Sean Polster (at large) said that he has spoken to officials from other municipalities who are envious of Warrenton’s good fortune. He said that other towns are looking at $7 to $10 million price tags for a new town hall.

Mayor Carter Nevill agreed, “I spoke with a mayor of a town outside of Richmond and they are going to have to pay $8 million for a new town hall.” He added, “The free market had time to look at it and did not take advantage … This is a remarkable opportunity and we have not gone into this lightly. We’ve given it proper deliberation and careful thought.”

Schaeffer said she has spoken with commercial realtors about the property, asking why the property had not been snatched up by the market. She explained that the sheer size of the building is daunting, and the space would have to be chopped up into smaller units.

Councilman Kevin Carter (Ward 5) said, “This is a smart decision. It would be great to have a hotel there, but that hasn’t happened.”

Councilman Robert Kravetz (Ward 4) added, “We made the right decision. We should forge ahead.”

Necessary repairs

Schaeffer's memo to council members explained that during the assessment of the Main Street building, “foundation issues were identified early in the process.” It also said that water infiltration in the basement could not be completely assessed, and that any repairs to address water getting into the basement would close First Street for up to two months.

Asbestos was found in the building and the HVAC system needs repairs, according to the report. Of the HVAC system, the memo says, “We had hoped to fully test the systems during the study period, but the fire at the BB&T building on Lee Highway resulted in a temporary relocation of their staff. That limited our testing so each unit will need to be tested.”

The memo further states, “The unanticipated cost that was not considered during the initial evaluation was the aging IT infrastructure. Staff incorrectly assumed the building, having served as a bank, was equipped with fiber and moderate IT wiring for our basic needs as a Town Hall; it is not. The building lacks the necessary fiber and cable infrastructure to support the current town operations. The required installation will maintain our current operations with an updated system.”

A full building security assessment will need to be done once the renovations are finished and space has been allocated.

Reach Robin Earl at rearl@fauquier.com

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