Expect an abundance of ribbon-cuttings and grand opening signs in downtown Leesburg in the coming months, as vacant storefronts and under-construction buildings give way to new, or reborn, businesses.
Economic Development Director Marantha Edwards says it’s an exciting time to be a part of downtown Leesburg with all the new businesses coming on line. Just this week, the Town Council was set to celebrate another grand opening—for Señor Ramon Taqueria at 15 N. Loudoun St.
Edwards believes that what downtown Leesburg has been doing for years—creating an environment conducive to the growth of independent shops and restaurants—is what other mixed-use developments are trying to model.
“The genesis of it is what’s happening in downtown Leesburg,” she said.
Below is but a sampling of the activity in the downtown area:
King Street Oyster Bar
Location: 12 S. King St.
Opening Date: March
Nestled alongside South King Street in the former Cooley Gallery space, Rick Allison’s newest restaurant venture promises to bring a marine flavor to the
downtown. Working with business partner Jorge Esguerra, Allison plans a 2,500-square-foot space that will boast seafood selections including raw and grilled oysters, crab and shrimp in the summer months, along swith steak, chicken, pasta and sandwiches to round out the menu. In addition to the indoor space, the oyster bar will have a patio in the back with to-go selections. The oyster bar is expected to open in the beginning of March.
Courthouse Square/Victory Brewing Company
Location: 9 E. Market St.
Opening Date: TBD, based on plan review process
The 112,000-square-foot development in the former Loudoun Times-Mirror property on East Market Street is in the midst of some minor design changes which have, at least for the moment, put a groundbreaking on hold. That’s according to Blair White of Landmark Commercial. White said the design changes require the submission of some plan revisions to the Town of Leesburg.
The anchor of the project is the first non-Pennsylvania location of Victory Brewing Company, a privately held craft brewery headquartered in Downingtown, PA. The company formally began operations in 1996 and in its 20 years has attracted a loyal following throughout the 34 states in which it is distributed. Despite rumors to the contrary, Victory is still very much committed to the project, White said.
Edwards said she and others are anticipating Victory’s arrival and the growth of the microbrewery industry in general could lead to potential future suitors for space in the downtown area. Edwards said she was recently contacted by two other microbreweries interested in Leesburg locations.
“It’s a huge opportunity with the growth in that industry,” she said. “For downtown to be the epicenter is going to be awesome.”
Although Victory is the only confirmed tenant for the development as of yet, Courthouse Square will have leasable space for office and retail businesses with a structured parking facility at the rear of the building. White said recently that developers have been in talks with “a number of sizable prospective tenants.”
Location: 7 W. Market St.
Opening Date: Late summer
Although the name has not yet been settled, one new establishment that will certainly become well known is a tequila bar project by builder Paul Reimers and restaurateurs Jason Lage and Rebecca Dudley. Lage says the tequila bar and restaurant will give the public a different concept of authentic Mexican food, as well as tequila and mezcal, another liquor.
“What people know about tequila is what they used to do in college. But tequila when made properly is like buying good Scotch; when it’s made well, it’s good,” Lage said.
As for the food at the restaurant, Lage said they will be using seasonal ingredients in food preparation and supporting local farms, much like how authentic Mexican food is made.
“The authenticity of the restaurant and the food is what’s going to be really cool about it,” he said.
Reimers said he expects construction to begin on the restaurant March 1. The tequila bar will open in the former BB&T bank building on West Market Street. He anticipates construction will take about five months to complete.
Location: East Market Street
Further east on Market Street and across from the Loudoun County Courthouse is Courthouse Commons, boasting more than 20,000 square feet of office space spread over four floors and two buildings. Ellis Dale Construction is spearheading the project.
The development required the demolition of four buildings which necessitated approval by the Leesburg Town Council. The end result hopes to be an attractor to businesses looking to locate in the Old & Historic District, not to mention the town’s federally designated HUBZone.
Edwards said potential tenants for the development interested in being located in the HUBZone have already reached out, and she understands leasing efforts for the property have been going well. HUBZone businesses are given certain advantages when it comes to bidding on government contracts, making the area of Leesburg the HUBZone encompasses—including the Courthouse Commons development—an attractive place to locate a business looking to get into the government contracting waters.
Leesburg Diner/Caulkins Jewelers
Location: 9 and 11 S. King St.
Re-opening date: Leesburg Diner, spring/summer; Caulkins Jewelers, TDB
Two longtime anchor businesses that were displaced by a summer 2015 fire also hope to re-open in the near future. Michael O’Connor is the property owner of the two South King Street buildings and said he is still waiting to hear back from his insurance company before moving forward with reconstruction efforts.
“It’s the only way to do this. If you start a project without knowing exactly what you have to back it up, you inevitably run out [of money] or over,” O’Connor said.
Once the insurance situation is resolved, O’Connor said he hopes to get the diner re-opened by late spring or early summer, but does not have an anticipated reopening date for Caulkins Jewlers or the apartments above the two establishments. Store owner Stanley Caulkins for his part has settled into life in the store’s temporary space in the Virginia Village shopping center off Catoctin Circle. While Caulkins said his customers enjoy the ample parking available at the shopping center, he does miss the visibility of being in the downtown area.
Margaret Morton contributed to this story.