Town, EDA consider Avtex, Happy Creek future

FRONT ROYAL – The town might need to spend millions of dollars to bring businesses to the former Avtex Fibers site and another industrial park.

Town Council and members of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Committee talked Tuesday about the future of the Avtex site and the Happy Creek Technology Park.

Avtex, also known as Royal Phoenix, consists of 147 acres once designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency but since reclaimed by the EDA for development. The town rezoned the Avtex property to mixed-use, campus development to allow commercial and/or light-industrial users. IT Federal recently committed to buying approximately 30 acres.

But the town needs to extend Main Street through the Avtex property to the IT Federal site. The proposed two-lane extension of Main Street would include bicycle lanes and sidewalks. However, the initial cost estimate for the extension to half way into the site increased from $1.3 million to $2.5 million. The EDA and the town are seeking state aid through industrial access funds.

Town Manager Steve Burke explained some of the reasons for the delay in the road project.

“As we started working with IT Federal, they wanted some adjustment to the grade on the road to, again, facilitate the aesthetic they were looking for with their campus and also asking for on-street parking,” Burke said. “They’ve been a partner to the road design to make sure that it meets both the transportation needs but also the aesthetic and access needs.”

The town also provides electric power to the Avtex site via a 13.2-kilovolt substation in the northeast corner. The substation can provide approximately 10 megawatts of capacity. IT Federal has not told the town how much electricity the development would require. The town can upgrade the substation should future site development exceed capacity for approximately $2.5 million. The town also can build a second substation on 1.5 acres, at a cost of $3-$5 million, should the site require service at a higher voltage.

Front Royal’s water treatment plant can treat up to 6 million gallons per day and can draw up to 4 million gallons per day from the Shenandoah River. The plant produces a daily average of about 2 million gallons per day. The town can serve the Avtex site via a 6-inch water main on Kendrick Lane and a 12-inch main on Kerfoot Avenue. The town plans to connect the mains by a line to serve the site as part of the Main Street extension. The system can supply up to 500,000 gallons per day to the site.

The wastewater treatment plant, once upgraded, can treat 5.3 million gallons per day. The town plans to build lift stations on the site to send solid waste to existing sewer mains.

As far as the future of the Avtex site, Councilman Bret Hrbek said he wants to see it developed “bold and big.” Hrbek cited the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Loudoun County as an example. Hrbek said he saw industries in the renewable energy or biotechnology fields as users he would like to see.

But EDA board member Bill Sealock pointed out that a campus-style development would face certain restrictions for traffic flow because Avtex features only one way in and out. Hrbek acknowledged that Avtex remains landlocked but a long-range plan calls for a fly-over out of the site. Development might hasten the construction of such a fly-over, Hrbek said.

Other representatives suggested that the town and EDA scope out other entities to develop in either the Avtex site or Happy Creek Technology Park. EDA board member Ron Llewellyn suggested that the town and authority should try to court a university to develop in the Avtex site. Llewellyn said a university presence also would help attract businesses and industries that specialize in technology. Llewellyn suggested they ask Shenandoah University to consider locating part of its institution in Front Royal.

The Happy Creek Technology Park consists of partially developed property west of Shenandoah Shores Road. The EDA continues to market property in the park and recently approved the construction of a law-enforcement training facility. The EDA also has spearheaded the construction of the Leach Run Parkway with improvements to Happy Creek Road. The town continues to investigate funding opportunities to build the second phase of Happy Creek Road improvements from the end of the first section to the parkway.

As the case with Avtex, the town provides electric power to the park and could upgrade the substation for approximately $1 million or build a second facility for $3-5 million.

The town provides water and sewer service to the park. The town would need to upgrade a water-treatment pump station at a cost of about $2.5 million if required. Likewise, the town would need to spend about $750,000 if required to upgrade the wastewater lift station for the park.

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

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