August 18, 2020
Developer would turn old barracks into apartments
Solidly-constructed, the old Army barracks at Vint Hill have stood vacant for more than two decades.
Based in South Boston, near Danville, Echelon Resources Inc. plans about 20 two-bedroom units among 183 apartments at Vint Hill.
It could provide a really nice focal point for that part of Vint Hill that’s starting to coalesce into kind of a central destination
— Scott District Planning Commissioner Adrienne Garreau
Rezoning application to amend the concept development plan to allow rehabilitation of two vacant Army barracks on 10.9 acres at Vint Hill for up to 200 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20
Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St., Warrenton.
Fauquier County Planning Commission.
VHL East LLC and VHL West LLC.
Parkside Village LLC and Vint Hill Village LLC.
The planning commission serves as an advisory panel to the county board of supervisors, which has final authority. Depending on the commission’s action Thursday, the board could conduct a Sept. 10 public hearing on the project.
The innovative proposal calls for redeveloping the neglected, long-vacant former Army barracks at Vint Hill into as many as 200 apartments.
Fauquier’s planning commission Thursday night will conduct a public hearing on a rezoning that would allow conversion of the brick buildings into one- and two-bedroom units. The 10.9-acre site lies at Sigler Road and Bludau Drive near the southwest corner of the former Army base near New Baltimore.
Ultimately, the “Vint Hill Lofts” would have about 183 apartments, with no more than 20 percent of them two-bedroom units, according to developer Edwin Gaskin, president of Echelon Resources Inc., based in South Boston, near Danville and the North Carolina border.
The two-building project also calls for a fitness center, “club room” and on-site storage. Apartments would rent in the range of $1,000 the $1,500 per month.
“A minimum percentage of” the apartments “will be discounted for teachers and emergency responders,” according to application’s statement of justification.
> Documents at bottom of story
Mr. Gaskin put the project’s development cost at more than $25 million.
He learned of Vint Hill in 2018 from a commercial Realtor and associate.
“It’s a rare find,” he said. “It’s a village, if you will, in the middle of a rural context.”
For that and other reasons, Mr. Gaskin believes the property represents a “great redevelopment opportunity” for the community and his company, which specializes in the giving new life to historic properties.
“It would be difficult to find a path forward for (the barracks) in the state they’re in, if they were in almost any other context,” he said. “But because they are within the Vint Hill community, you have this context of walkability — walkability within range of commercial and residential amenities and opportunities.
“And those are the kinds of ingredients that are necessary to make a large-scale redevelopment project viable.”
The Army base closed in 1997. Over the years, redevelopment of the 700-acre property has added more than 300 homes and brought numerous businesses there, including technology companies, a brewery, a winery, restaurants and a range of contractors, along with the Federal Aviation Administration regional air traffic control center.
All historic structures have “pros” and “cons,” Mr. Gaskin said.
The two- and three-story barracks have fallen into an “advanced” state of deterioration, he said.
And their mid-19th century architecture “is not what Virginians find historically, aesthetically pleasing,” Mr. Gaskin said. “Those are the first two challenges that come to mind.”
But, as “mid-century Cold War-era military barracks, they were built very sturdily — a lot of concrete — and should be able to be rehabilitated well,” he said.
After planned improvements, the buildings would be “operationally feasible for many, many decades to come,” Mr. Gaskin added.
Based on housing studies and “anecdotal” information, he believes a strong local market exists for the project.
“Given the lack of professional-grade rental housing in Fauquier County, I expect we’ll have a nice, healthy demand for Vint Hill Lofts,” Mr. Gaskin suggested.
Already, the project has a waiting list of 50 “interested parties,” he added.
“I’m in favor of it on two fronts — from the historic preservation aspect and also for what we’re doing for the county in terms of providing a type of residential component that we don’t have right now,” said Planning Commissioner Adrienne Garreau, whose Scott District includes the project site.
Echelon Resources last year completed the rehabilitation of the old Culpeper Power and Water Works buildings. Today, the two downtown structures house 22 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Ms. Garreau walked around the structures.
“It’s just stunning,” said the planning commissioner, who didn’t enter the buildings. “They’ve got all the right aesthetics. A lot of the boxes are being checked for the type of thing we’re looking for.
“If they can do something like that for Vint Hill, that would be a real asset. It could provide a really nice focal point for that part of Vint Hill that’s starting to coalesce into kind of a central destination.”
If the supervisors back the rezoning, the Vint Hill Lofts project also would require special exception permit approval from the board. That permit review process involves public hearings before the planning commission and the board of supervisors, which will make the final decision.
The project also would need county government administrative site plan approval.
Under the plan, Vint Hill Lofts’ financing would involve federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.
The federal program requires that projects using such credits must produce income for five years from the time they open, before apartments, for example, could be sold.
After the five-year period — “depending on market conditions” — the apartments “likely” would be sold as condominiums in phases, according to Mr. Gaskins.
Rehabilitation of the barracks, which should take about two years, will start as quickly as possible, after he gets all of the necessary local, state and federal government approvals, the developer said.
The commission has established rules for public participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for details about live-streaming the meeting and commenting electronically or in person.
The five-member commission serves as an advisory panel to the county board of supervisors, which has final authority.
Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
Vint Hill Lofts Application... by Fauquier Now on Scribd
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Fred_GarvinJr · August 20, 2020 at 9:08 pm
“And their mid-19th century architecture...” Seriously? Did the developer say this? Or, did this just slide through the “editing” process?
AmericanPatriot · August 20, 2020 at 6:11 pm
I am talking about the asbestos in the old photo recon building and the barracks, none of which have been torn down
AngryBob · August 20, 2020 at 1:46 pm
Truepat · August 20, 2020 at 6:21 am
I recall an article detailing how a company was going to do this quite a while ago, is this the same company or all new plans?
AngryBob · August 19, 2020 at 10:11 am
They removed the asbestos before tearing down that building. Surely the others are still full of the stuff.
I'm surprised there is any chance of saving those barracks. "Advanced state of deterioration" is an understatement. You can smell the mold from 100 yards away.
AmericanPatriot · August 19, 2020 at 9:45 am
Whats their plan for all the asbestos? Is the landfill going to charge them the same rate for the hundreds of tons of debris they charge residents?
Patrick Jones · August 19, 2020 at 6:25 am
The Vint Hill committee used to say by the year 2000 it will all be developed. What a bunch of little kids playing business.
And the developer is the company that knocked down female barrack and hid all the rubble behind other barracks, most likely because there was/is asbestos. Don't worry, your local, nature friendly developer is on the job.
pathupp · August 18, 2020 at 6:29 pm
Very exciting! Historical restoration, a great location, I am all for it!
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