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EDA deal will boost city park
Fredericksburg EDA plans to buy riverfront property

 The EDA plans to buy this building and .64 acres.
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Date published: 5/17/2011


The Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority plans to buy a downtown property to help the city develop its riverfront.

The EDA yesterday unanimously approved a contract to buy the .64-acre property at 609 Sophia St. from the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge No. 61. The contract price is $925,000, which is $40,000 less than the assessed value. The EDA now has a 90-day study period to evaluate the property before closing.

The EDA has been eyeing the property for more than a year due to its potential to enhance the adjoining Riverfront Park, which the city is now developing. The exact future use of the property--which includes a 2,000-square-foot, two-story brick building--is unclear.

"The EDA recognizes the importance of this strategic property to the further development of Fredericksburg's riverfront and an economically viable downtown," said EDA Chairman Joe Wilson.

The Fredericksburg EDA has about $1.2 million in low-yielding CDs and money-market accounts. It has received that money from private entities that have sold tax-free bonds through the EDA for developments, including Mary Washington Hospital and Eagle Village. The entities receive lower borrowing costs because the bonds are tax-free, and they pass along some of the savings to the EDA. The EDA gets no taxpayer money.

It is unclear at this point whether the EDA will pay cash for the property or finance it. The EDA's annual budget is about $279,000.

This isn't the first time that the EDA has helped with the extensive costs involved with developing the riverfront park, which is along Sophia Street between Charlotte and Hanover streets. The EDA earlier put up $50,000 for grading, seeding and pavement work there.

The city has already spent $2.7 million buying land for the park, including the purchase and demolition of the Wings on the Water restaurant and bar. It envisions the park, which is two blocks from the city's parking garage, as a tourist draw and a key to downtown's future vitality.

The cost of finishing the master plan City Council approved for the park is expected to be millions more, and the current tight fiscal times don't allow for that.

Nonetheless, the city has already begun using the park for a number of events, including the Heritage Festival, Via Colori and Downtown Dog Fair. This year, the city moved the lunchtime concert series on Tuesdays to Riverfront Park from Hurkamp Park.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com