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August 31, 2018

Ambitious Old Town hotel and restaurant plan fizzles

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
This former Catholic Church at 79 E. Lee St. remains on the market, after Warrenton-based Oasis Life Sciences failed to close a deal under its purchase contract that expired this month.
We’re marketing the property. Whether they come back or not, we have no idea.
— Realtor Bill Chipman
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
An ambitious plan to open a “gourmet” restaurant, wellness center and boutique hotel in Old Town Warrenton collapsed two weeks ago.

Michele Ballarin, who lives on a 42-acre farm near Markham, by mid-August had planned to buy the former Catholic Church property at East Lee and Fourth streets. Her company — Warrenton-based Oasis Life Sciences — in June won approval of town government incentives to redevelop the property.

But, Ms. Ballarin wanted contract “extension periods to get through the (town) planning process that were not acceptable” to his client, Warrenton commercial real estate broker Bill Chipman said Thursday. “We’re marketing the property. Whether they come back or not, we have no idea.”

Oasis Life Sciences spokeswoman Alexa Wolff failed to return a phone message Thursday seeking comment.

To some extent, it surprised him that the contract fell through, Mr. Chipman said. At the same time, “being in the business this long (28 years), nothing surprises me.”

The Old Church LLC, owned by renowned interior designer Barry Dixon, wants $895,000 for the property. For tax purposes, the county values it at $480,500.

Oasis Life Sciences estimated the proposed restaurant, consulting firm and hotel eventually would create 50 full-time and 12 part-time jobs.

The 0.24-acre project site at 79 E. Lee St. includes three vacant brick structures that date to the early 1900s — the old sanctuary, rectory and parish hall, totaling about 7,700 square feet of space.

Under Ms. Ballarin’s proposal, the sanctuary would have housed a restaurant and the rectory a wellness consulting business.

Remodeling, equipping and furnishing the old sanctuary alone would cost $3.5 million to $4 million, according to the company.

The company planned to open Restaurant Violette next year.

Its plan described a “gourmet” menu that would reflect the company’s nutritional philosophy and serve breakfast, lunch, “light, afternoon fare” and dinner.

The restaurant would employ about 40 full- and eight part-time employees, according to the proposal. The old rectory would house Rejuvenescence Ltd. — a wellness consulting firm — and double as corporate headquarters.

About six full-time and two part-time employees would work at that building. One or two clients would be onsite at a time, according to Oasis Life Sciences. 

In June, Warrenton’s town council unanimously approved an incentive package — worth $39,000 in fee and tax abatements over three years — for the company’s redevelopment of East Lee Street property.

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Rover 530 · September 6, 2018 at 9:25 am
This is not surprising at all. History and business track record all pointed to a non-starter.
Citizen Voice · September 5, 2018 at 10:39 am
why would this be a surprise to anyone who can search the internet and read about the identified would-be purchaser?
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