Shenandoah County is considering an unsolicited proposal from a company that wants to acquire the historic bank building in Woodstock in order to renovate and repurpose the structure for use as a commercial space and residential apartments.
Echelon Resources Inc., a firm that specializes in such projects involving historic properties, approached the county with its confidential proposal to acquire the property at 114 W. Court St. in Woodstock on Oct. 23, said Deputy County Administrator Mandy Belyea during a presentation at a virtual public hearing on Tuesday evening.
The proposal came around the same time that the firm also made a similar proposal to the town of Woodstock regarding the acquisition of the old Woodstock school. Echelon Resources President Edwin Gaskin said during Tuesday’s public hearing that his firm views the two as “parallel projects.”
Belyea said during the public hearing that since the county received the proposal last fall, there have been numerous meetings between county staff, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, Echelon and the town of Woodstock. Belyea added that the county offered its response to the proposal in January, after which it continued negotiations and discussions, and drafted a purchase agreement, which would be for $1 following a study period.
Belyea noted that the county was still working on including language in the proposal that would allow it to retain a small portion of the parcel behind the old bank building, along what is generally referred to as “Lawyers’ Row.”
The Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal during its June 9 meeting.
The Investigations Division of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office now uses Woodstock’s historic bank building, though Belyea noted that the structure soon will be vacated when that division moves into the new public safety building in Woodstock. Belyea added during the public hearing that the building has many repair and maintenance needs and that the county has no proposed government use for the building.
Under its proposal, Echelon would “transform” the old bank building, which was built in the late 1800s, and renovate and replace all major systems, fixtures and finishes, though the exterior facade and other historic interior elements, including the bank vault, would be preserved, according to Gaskin’s presentation during Tuesday’s public hearing.
Gaskin added that Echelon would apply for historic tax credits for the project, under which the firm would be required to conform to guidelines designed to keep many of the historical elements of the building intact.
The project would create a commercial space on the first floor with residential apartments above.
Gaskin said during his presentation that the proposed project would give the property an immediate redevelopment plan once it is vacated, would allow the county to put the property back on tax rolls, would put commercial space on a “key downtown street” and would fulfill a need for professional-grade housing.
“We often find that what we do tends to have a cascading effect of positivity,” said Gaskin, whose firm lists 15 similar projects on its website. “It not only takes care of the blighted sights but also stems off – new taxes, new jobs. It creates positive momentum for the neighborhood we’re working in.”
Gaskin noted that the building is a small one (5,636 square feet) in a small market, has no parking space available on the property and is located outside of Woodstock’s primary commercial corridor, meaning any business that sets up shop there would likely have to work harder to attract the necessary foot traffic.
Gaskin added that because of the building’s current use, Echelon has only been able to view the building from the outside.
“This will be a unique experience in that we have never actually seen the inside,” said Gaskin, who added that Echelon has taken on buildings in much worse shape than the old bank building.
According to Belyea’s presentation during the public hearing, the historic bank building was purchased by Shenandoah County around 1960, was leased to First Virginia Bank in 1974 and thereafter housed various county offices, including the treasurer, commissioner of revenue, building inspections and the commonwealth’s attorney.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors approved Woodstock’s request that the county quitclaim the possibility of reversion in two parcels of land that include the old Woodstock school, allowing the town to explore developing and improving the property for nongovernmental use.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors:
Voted to renew a law enforcement service agreement with the town of Toms Brook.
Discussed issuing a line of credit with a financial institution of up to $12 million to help stabilize any potential revenue and cash flow fluctuations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Discussed an appropriation from the Shenandoah Community Foundation Grant.
Discussed re-appropriations for the second half of fiscal year 2020.
Held a public hearing regarding an ordinance that adopts by reference into the Code of Shenandoah County state laws involving vehicles and traffic that take effect July 1.
Held a public hearing regarding increased landfill fees for commercial haulers, municipal haulers and construction haulers.
Held a public hearing regarding the rezoning from R-2 residential and A-1 agricultural to R-4 residential of certain real property consisting of 51.3 acres at 49 Ritenour Lane near Maurertown.