EDA reveals name of housing project firm

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has revealed the name of the developer of its workforce housing project.

The Aikens Group, a private firm based in Winchester, will develop the 36-unit apartment complex designed and priced for local teachers, law enforcement workers and other professionals. The 3.6-acre site lies at the end of Royal Lane in town.

Aikens chose the location for the project though the authority helped the firm find the site, EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said Monday.

The EDA began working with Aikens in November 2014. Aikens requested at the time that the EDA keep its involvement confidential. The EDA agreed to spearhead the project for The Aikens Group. The authority upheld its agreement to maintain confidentiality as requested by Aikens by applying for permits for the project, according to McDonald.

“They felt comfortable enough that we were at a point that all of the permits were gonna get approved and so they felt comfortable enough with us releasing who they were,” McDonald said.

The EDA needs permits approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The site plan for the project also needs approval by the town, McDonald said.

“But we feel pretty comfortable that we’ve addressed all of the issues in both of their comments, so we should be receiving those soon,” McDonald said.

The EDA can then deed the property to Aikens, McDonald said. Aikens can move forward with the project. McDonald referred questions about the project budget to Aikens.

“The price of the land has always been part of their construction budget so there are no surprises with any of the pricing,” McDonald said. “They have known that from the very beginning.

“So the only thing the EDA is out of pocket for is the $10,000 traffic study, which we felt was a small price to pay to have this project that has been on our strategic plan for at least 10 years,” McDonald added.

At a recent meeting of the EDA board of directors, McDonald warned that should the authority take on the project, it would need to limit construction to two apartment buildings, thus reducing the number of units.

“We never had any intention of doing that but we just couldn’t release who the developer was,” McDonald said.

The developer serves the Interstate 81 and Interstate 66 corridors, from Martinsburg, West Virginia to Woodstock. Aiken’s website shows that the company provides apartments ranging from luxury  to economy and townhome rentals in Winchester, Stephens City and Martinsburg. Aikens also builds and leases commercial projects, rents cranes and develops hotels.