FRONT ROYAL — The long dilapidated and empty Afton Inn continues a path toward rejuvenation as the Planning Commission approved an architecture’s proposed site plan.

Planning Director Jeremy Camp said the site plan, which calls for renovation and partial demolition, must be approved before Carter + Burton Architecture can receive a zoning permit to start construction of new work.

The Afton Inn is located at the corner of North Royal Avenue and Main Street, which Camp noted is “the entrance to our downtown.” That entrance has already begun its transformation as the Afton Inn’s non-historic annex facing North Royal Avenue was demolished in September.

Camp said the building will have “a lot of activity, a lot of uses.” That includes a ground-floor restaurant, community room and commercial space; second-floor offices and loft apartments; and third-floor apartments.

Although the restaurant has not been revealed, architect Jim Burton previously described it as a “cafe-market” that is a “coffee shop that serves beer and wine along with food.”

The town received the Afton Inn in a property swap for the former Town Hall, but construction is being funded by 2 East Main Street LLC. The town will retain ownership until work is complete, at which point it will be turned over to developer Alan Omar. Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority officials explained this arrangement is the best way to ensure construction is finished and that the building does not remain vacant.

The Planning Commission’s agenda sheet states that while the architect is still considering design options for the lawn, plans illustrate a sitting area, fireplace and perimeter barrier.

“It’s a truly mixed-use building,” Camp said.

He noted that the site plan calls for unique aspects new to town, including a living wall facing North Royal Avenue upon which plants will grow. He added that the main historic structure will remain intact and crews have been stabilizing the structure. The two planned additions on the buildings rear end, he said, will have a more modern appearance that makes for an “interesting design.”

Camp noted that the new activity will coincide with “parking challenges in the area,” which the Planning Department is working to remedy.

Everything in the site plan was approved except for proposed electric car charging stations, which Camp said must be approved by Town Council because they sit in a public right-of-way.

After the Board of Architectural Design in July approved conceptual design plans, Burton said he expected construction to be completed around September 2019.

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