Developer studies Afton Inn for pub, housing

Jennifer McDonald

FRONT ROYAL – A developer wants to build an eatery and apartments in the long-vacant Afton Inn.

The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority recently received a letter of intent from parties interested in refurbishing the property at 2 N. Main St., Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said Wednesday. The interested developer is proposing to rehabilitate the property by building an English pub on the first floor and apartments on the upper stories, McDonald said.

The letter gives the developer 30 days to study the property and make a determination on proceeding, McDonald explained. The period ends during the first or second week in October, she said. The EDA has received no other letters of intent since it already has an active one, McDonald explained. The EDA can’t accept any others until the one it has is no longer valid.

McDonald wouldn’t identify the developer studying the property nor would she make the letter of intent available because “it’s still confidential.”

“It’s not something that I can release yet until they go into contract,” McDonald said.

No price has been established for the property.

“Until they get through their study period, none of that will take place,” McDonald said.

McDonald updated town and county officials about the interest in the property at a Development Review Committee meeting Wednesday. McDonald also provided the update to Front Royal Town Council on Monday. The EDA hopes to reach a full contract with the developer within the 30-day period, McDonald told council.

Unlike Front Royal’s former police department building, also marketed by the EDA, the town does not need to hold a public hearing on the potential purchase of the Afton Inn because the authority owns the Afton Inn. The town plans to hold a public hearing on a proposal to sell the former police headquarters to developers who want to turn the building into a brewery. But council remains in the loop and McDonald advised members about the interested developers in a closed session earlier this month.

“No, we have been running it past the Town Council,” McDonald said. “Ultimately, yes, that would be a decision made by the EDA but not without consulting the Town Council.”

The EDA purchased the Afton Inn from the previous owner, Frank Burros, in a trade for the former Town Hall on North Royal Avenue. The sale became final in December 2014. Town Council authorized the trade that now allows Burros to redevelop the historic structure. Meanwhile, the EDA has marketed the Afton Inn on behalf of the town. Critics of the trade claimed the town swapped the better property for a derelict building that a developer likely would demolish. McDonald has said all along that the EDA’s intention is to find a developer that would reuse the Afton Inn building, not raze it.

County real estate records show the latest assessment values the Afton Inn at $261,300.

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