Strasburg focuses on old grocery for space

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg may put its investment in the former Brill grocery store to good use.

A plan presented to the Town Council’s Infrastructure Committee by Town Manager Judson Rex on Monday shows that Strasburg could alleviate space needs by renovating the Brill property and the adjacent taxi stand for the administrative offices. With the government operations out of Town Hall, the police department could stretch out to fill the building.

The panel agreed to forward the proposal to the full council for discussion.

Rex said that in addition to satisfying current and future space needs for administration and police, the town could make use of vacant, derelict buildings, expand public parking and give customers a drive-thru option.

A recently conducted study shows that the town’s administration would need 2,600 square feet in the next 20 years. The Brill building covers approximately 2,750 square feet while the taxi stand adds another 500 square feet, Rex said.

The proposal would call for the town to relocate administration, finance, planning and zoning and economic development to a renovated Brill building and taxi stand.

Council members voiced support for the new proposal from a logistical angle. However, some members brought up concerns about the cost.

Councilman Scott Terndrup said the option appeared more efficient than earlier proposals. Terndrup asked members for their thoughts. Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena said she supported the proposal, but “the only thing that always comes to my mind is dollars.”

Councilman John Hall pointed out that the town eventually would need to use the Brill property.

Preliminary estimates put the cost to renovate the Brill property and taxi stand at up to $560,000 — well below the $800,000 to reconfigure Town Hall, Rex said.

“So instead of just piling that money and investment into Town Hall, I’m saying that we can take that and maybe even less than that and put it into the Brill property and get more use out of that space,” Rex said.

The proposal includes the construction of a vestibule to connect the Brill building with the taxi stand. There would be a public parking lot behind the properties and a drive-thru window for customers. The town would make access to the lot via a road from King Street through a vacant lot between the Brill site and property next door. The town does not own the lot between the properties, Rex said.

The idea of connecting the Brill building and the taxi stand has been broached in an earlier space needs study. Rex noted the taxi stand space could serve as an area for downtown visitors.

“As far as the police space goes, again it roughly aligns with space we have available here at Town Hall, including the council chamber,” Rex said.

The police department would need 11,300 square feet of space in 20 years. Chief Tim Sutherly has said this estimate seemed high, Rex said. But the 9,300 square feet offered by the first and second floors in Town Hall comes close to what the police would need, Rex noted, adding that the basement offers more space.

Town Hall would need only minor renovations to house the police department, Rex explained.

Under this proposal, a one-way access road would connect the parking behind Town Hall to Queen Street. The right-of-way is not wide enough for a two-way road.

Studies of the Brill property over the past couple of months revealed the presence of asbestos and other hazardous materials, Rex said. The town would need to factor in these materials when renovating the building, he added. Staff also has been working with a historical architect to estimate the cost per square foot to renovate the building.

The architect estimated the cost at $140-$175 per square foot – or $450,000-$560,000 – to renovate the former store, Rex said. The town could investigate the use of historic tax credits to help offset the cost of the renovation, Rex added. However, the more complicated process requires that a private, third-party entity own the property under renovation to collect the credits, Rex explained.

Cost estimates for the expanded parking area and access roads have not been calculated.

The committee’s previous discussion on space needs focused on reconfiguring Town Hall to put the police department on the second floor and the administration on the first floor. Members raised concerns over public access to the police department.

Some council members also asked whether the town would pursue reuse of the Brill property given that Strasburg bought the property for that purpose several years ago.

Under the newest proposal, the Town Hall reception area would serve in the same capacity for the police department. But other issues such as retrofitting Town Hall to meet police department needs, and the related costs, have not been estimated.

Another proposal called for the construction of an expansion to the rear of Town Hall. Officials also mulled the idea of building a connection over Town Run between the Brill property and taxi stand and Town Hall. Rex explained that the current idea does not include any construction that would affect Town Run.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com