Afton Inn moves closer to sale

The 150-year-old Afton Inn is seen here at the corner of East Main Street and South Royal Avenue in Front Royal. The Board of Architectural Review voted unanimously Tuesday against approving a permit to demolish the building. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – The historic Afton Inn moved another step closer toward a new life Friday.

The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority board voted at its regular meeting to adopt a resolution for the approval of the sale of land, specifically the Afton Inn at 2 E. Main St. The resolution authorizes Chairwoman Patricia Wines and Executive Director Jennifer McDonald to execute documents for the negotiation of an option agreement between the EDA and Michael Silek and Shelley Cook.

The board discussed the matter during a closed session, then took action in open session.

The option agreement gives the potential buyers 90 days to develop plans, including architectural drawings, for the property, McDonald said after the meeting. The buyers then would bring the plans to the EDA for review, McDonald said. The EDA would present the plans to Town Council and seek its approval on the design. If and when council approves the design, she explained, the EDA would enter into a contract with the prospective buyers for the sale of the property. The prospective buyers pay $1,000 to the EDA for the option agreement.

“We want to see what they’re going to do with that building,” McDonald said. “We want an architectural design to see what that’s gonna look like.”

Silek, who works for the real estate firm Adams Nelson and Associate, said Friday afternoon that he and his partners intend to develop the second and third floors into upscale apartments for people aged 55 and older. Silek said he envisions the first floor as office space possibly in combination with a coffee shop. Cook, former owner of Loving Arms Assisted Living Center and Maverick LLC are the partners seeking to develop the property. Silek and Donald “Donnie” Poe own Maverick LLC, are long-time friends of Cook, and recently finished renovations to the former Frank’s building on Main Street and the Campbell building on Peyton Street that once housed the Warren County Health Department.

The partners want to restore the exterior of the building to its pre-Civil War appearance, Silek said.

“Our desire is to put independent living for seniors on the second and third floor,” Silek said.

The developers plan to start studying the structural integrity of the building next week, he added.

“It’s going to take quite an extensive effort to rehab that building, but it is our intention to restore it to what it once was much like we did to Frank’s building down the street,” Silek said. “In all likelihood we’ll finish the downstairs to a level where someone could come in and do whatever they wanted to with it. I would like to see Class A office space there quite frankly with its close proximity to the courthouse.”

Silek said he and his partners wouldn’t want to turn the first floor into a restaurant but they wouldn’t preclude someone from doing so. Silek suggested the first floor also could be turned into medical offices.

“As we get a tenant, we’ll finish (the first floor) for them, whether it be professional office, medical office, some sort of restaurant, “ Silek said. “Then we’ll finish the ground floor to whomever the tenant will be.”

The previous owner of the Afton Inn once sought to add a fourth floor to the structure, McDonald recalled. The prospective developers have not indicated a desire to do the same, she said.

The EDA bought the Afton Inn from Frank Barros in 2014 as part of a property trade in which council gave Barros the former Town Hall on Royal Avenue. The EDA then agreed to market the Afton Inn per the trade agreement. The property swap drew support from people who saw the trade as a chance to turn the long-vacant Afton Inn into a revenue-generating property, and opposition from those who claimed Front Royal would receive an unusable eyesore and lose its historic Town Hall. Almost two years after the EDA took ownership of the Afton Inn the agency is now courting a potential buyer.

Warren County property records list the Afton Inn’s value at $261,300 as of the latest reassessment.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or