The smell of new paint was still fresh last Monday when the Gordonsville Public Works department moved into its new location on Route 15 adjacent to the Gordonsville Airport.
For more than a year, the town crew has been working to convert the sprawling 27,000 square-foot block warehouse into a new public works facility and office complex town officials hope will end up paying for itself.
Initially, the town had planned to construct a new public works facility on land it owned behind the Family Dollar store in the Gordonsville Plaza shopping center. Initial estimates indicated the town could construct a new 10,000 square-foot shop for approximately $1 million.
But in 2016, when the Route 15 building—which had served as the home of Piedmont Fabricators, Blue Hole Canoes and various other businesses in recent years—came on the market, Gordonsville Public Works Director Vincent Seal saw an opportunity.
For $310,000, the town could purchase the building adjacent to the town’s airport and leverage the extra space to generate revenue. For about the same price, the town purchased the two houses flanking the 18079 James Madison Hwy. location, creating a nine-acre campus the town expects to pay for itself in the next 15 years.
For more than a year, the town worked to convert the largely open facility into a series of offices and spaces that not only would serve the town’s needs, but future tenants.
The 1971 building features four rentable warehouse
areas (one of which already is being rented) as well as two professional office areas totaling 3,500 square feet. Collectively, the Gordonsville Business Center is comprised of 17,000 square feet of rental space, while the public works area is more than 10,000 square feet. But not much of it was in any kind of shape to be rented or used when the town purchased it.
“We had to build all this office space from scratch,” Seal said. “None of this was here. We’ve tried to do a lot of the work ourselves to save the town money.”
It’s all a far cry from the current town shop that includes an old pole barn and the former town police department and jail right behind town hall on Main Street.
“You want to talk about opposites!” Seal said, clearly excited to move his department.
Town manager Debbie Kendall agreed. “It’s so much different than where they have been. Vincent became aware of this property and the town council saw a great opportunity to locate public works near the airport and create some revenue.”
“This is fabulous,” Gordonsville Mayor Bob Coiner said before the town council held a work session at the new office last Monday. “This is a facility that will pay for itself either directly or indirectly. It wasn’t our first thought, because we had the other location in town.”
But it was that other location that made the Route 15 site all the more attractive, the mayor said.
“We’ve got to be innovative. We don’t have much of a revenue stream beyond real estate and personal property taxes. This can be a revenue stream for us.”
Coiner said the Route 15 property was “a bargain.” The town could have spent more for a new public works shop in town, without getting nine acres by the airport with residential and commercial space to lease.
A cost analysis breakdown shows an investment of approximately $422,000 in the public works portion of the building and $558,000 in the leasable space. That’s still nearly $75,000 less than anticipated construction costs for a smaller, new shop behind the Family Dollar and without the long-term rental revenue possibilities, Seal explained.
“We’re doing more with less,” Coiner summarized.
Vice mayor Emily Winkey echoed the mayor’s sentiments. “They’ve done a beautiful job with this building and we’re very excited to have public works here. They saved the town a lot of money by using their own expertise on this facility. It just illustrates the skill and talent we have in public works and Vincent’s leadership to make it happen.”
At Monday’s worksession, the council toured the facility and met with realtors about marketing and promoting the vacant commercial space—titled The Gordonsville Business Center.
As of the July 1 move, boxes remained unpacked and furnshings—some repurposed from the former Gordonsville Pharmacy building at the traffic circle and others acquired at a University of Virginia salvage sale—were still being moved into place.
The new location has a reception area, administrative offices, map and plan room, locker room, shower and break room for the crew and plenty of storage space for the town’s signature Christmas lights and decorations.
The shop area alone is nearly 7,500 square feet and has adequate space for maintaining the town’s tractors and trucks.
Plans also call for a road to be constructed behind the facility connecting the public works department directly with the Gordonsville Airport and streamlining traffic flow to the crossover there on Route 15. Additionally, an above-ground fuel tank will be located outside the new shop.
Mayor Coiner indicated that the town’s heavy equipment would remain at the location near the Family Dollar and Seal said plans call for demolishing the old town shop to create additional parking behind town hall.
While Seal clearly is excited to move into his new location, so, too are his employees.
“We have a lot more room to work out here,” town foreman George Amirez said prior to the move. Amirez has worked with the town for 15 years. “But we made do where we were.”
Administrative assistant Olga Washington was ready to relocate after sharing cramped quarters behind town hall.
“Look at my new office! I just love our new location,” she said. “This is exciting for us and for Gordonsville.”