While plans for more residential units were celebrated by many as having a positive impact on downtown Leesburg, some downtown retailers are being affected in a different way.
Builder Don Knutson received unanimous approval from the Town Council last month on a special exception application that clears the way for the project. It calls for 64 multi-family residential units and 7,100 square feet of commercial space, including 3,000 square feet that is already existing, on two acres on the east side of South King Street, by the W&OD Trail. It’s a property that many will recognize from one of its long-term tenants, Battery Warehouse.
Oleg Totchin took over ownership of Battery Warehouse in 2004. But within one year of signing a new 10-year lease, the former property owner began laying out development plans for the site. Then, the property was sold to current landowner Waterford Development, which proposed its own commercial project and parking structure. That project received approval of the Town Council in 2008, but never moved forward.
So, to say Totchin has seen this show before, would be an understatement.
“For 12 years I’ve probably paid [employees] a month’s worth of time talking about something that’s never happened,” he said this week.
Over the years, he repeatedly has responded to questions and concerns raised by his loyal customers as to whatever current development proposal was up for debate would force his closure. Totchin noted that he and other merchants have been kept very well in the loop by property owners about discussions on the future of the property.
But, even if the Knutson project does not move forward, Battery Warehouse is leaving, Totchin said.
“Quite honestly, we need more room,” he said. “We’ve overgrown the location tremendously. We’ll continue rocking but somewhere else.”
But that “somewhere else” will still be in Leesburg, Totchin emphasized. He is looking at the possibility of purchasing a building in town, but if those plans don’t come to fruition, he is content to lease elsewhere in town.
“We’re not leaving Leesburg. Most of our business is here,” he said.
Husband and wife Steve Makranczy and Alex Korab are also preparing for a move. The owners of Transition Triathlon, at 222 S. King St., opened their shop in 2011. Korab had recently left the corporate world and decided it was time to do something completely different and help to provide the apparel and tools needed for other area triathletes like herself and her spouse. Noticing a “for lease” sign on the building in late 2010, a few months later the new business opened its doors.
“We knew from the start that eventually we would need to look for another location, as Waterford Development was trying to sell the property. And while close to the trail, the building was not ideal for retail with little window displays and not close to other shopping destinations. But we took the chance, always keeping our eyes open for our permanent place,” Korab said.
And a year later, their eyes were opened to a proposed development off Harrison Street—Crescent Place. Now, the duo is officially under contract to buy three retail units at Crescent Place, with visibility directly from the W&OD Trail.
“The timing is almost uncanny how perfectly it’s working out,” she said, also noting the irony of the seller they are working with at Crescent Place—Knutson. “It’s kind of been fortuitous for all of us.”
Korab said they are hoping to begin build-out of their new space in March, and expect that process to take about two months. But they will remain open in their South King Street space until their new store is ready to open, just in time for the peak summer season. They’ve launched a commemorative brick campaign to help fund their move, which can be found online at transitiontriathlon.com/were-moving.
In addition to owning their own property, Korab said they are looking forward to the increased visibility, especially to passers-by on the trail, greater access to customers both on the trail and within the Crescent Place development, and a better parking situation. They are also planning to fix bikes, as they have in their current shop, but will be looking forward to adding the option to rent bikes.
But she said they are also looking forward to what will come to pass on their current property. With their current building slated for demolition once the new development starts construction, Korab said she believes the development will be a great thing for that part of town.
“I feel like this area of the town is really kind of starved for something. Being a business here we kind of always felt detached from the rest of town. It’s kind of a no man’s land down here,” she said. “I feel that the plan we’ve seen is going to be a big benefit to the town.”