After months of review and debate, the Leesburg Town Council voted unanimously Dec. 10 to green light development plans for the 12-acre Crescent Place project.
The project, which is on Harrison Street west of Catoctin Street, will inhabit the spot where the Barber and Ross manufacturing complex used to sit and contain 35,000 square feet of commercial space and 224 residential units.
“The process made us think outside the box; we really had to work hard,” said applicant Hobie Mitchel of the Lansdowne Development Group. “We're going to do our very best to exceed what we proffered to. Those things are minimum things that we have to proffer to.”
The application, presented by Mitchel and the Lansdowne Development Group, has been reviewed with a fine-toothed comb by the Leesburg Town Council throughout the process. The project was originally slated for review Nov. 26, but the town council pushed the date back to December in order to give Mitchel time to address concerns town council and staff iterated.
Last month, town council members spoke about several concerns, including open space, parking and lack of commercial space.
The new proffer – the 15th one proposed over the course of the last year – gives just shy of one acre of open space; increases commercial space from 16,000 square feet to 32,000 square feet, with a maximum of 35,000 square feet; and includes a $1,000 donation to improving nearby parks and a $135,000 contribution for use of the town parking lot.
"We really have achieved a lot since this first work session of council. We've doubled the commercial space, we've significantly improved the street-scape on Harrison and I'm so proud of what we accomplished pulling the buildings up,” councilwoman Katie Hammler said. “We didn't do everything perfect with the parking, but i think we've done very well."
Council members praised the benefits that they feel the new development will bring, including economic benefits and improving aesthetics. Community members, who attended and spoke at the public hearing, echoed those statements.
"When we heard someone had bought the Barber and Ross property for development, finally, we were ecstatic,” said Gary Dickens, publisher of Leesburg Magazine and a member of the Catoctin Crescent District board. "We are looking forward to this changing from this terrible 10-acre fire hazard to this gorgeous development that Mr. Mitchel and his crew have put together.”
But not all community sentiments were positive.
“As I see it, the proffers are still inadequate,” Jen Bingle said. “There will be a cost to taxpayers."
Still, ultimately, the council felt the application was adequate. Councilwoman Kelly Burk said that while it didn't address all of her wants, it addressed many and that was part of the compromise. Burk noted that she looks forward to the demolition of the old manufacturing buildings.
“I look forward to seeing the buildings coming down and I hope to push the first one,” Burk said. “Boy, are they ugly.”
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