A Fredericksburg developer is planning to breathe new life into a vacant downtown building that had once housed his grandfather’s wholesale business.

John Janney purchased the Janney–Marshall building at 401-409 Princess Anne St. in February from its owners for $1.2 million and plans to renovate it as a mixed-use property. Renderings show 2,100 square feet of commercial space and three apartments on the first floor and four apartments each on the second and third floors.

“I’ve always loved old historic buildings, and this is the last post-and-beam building in Fredericksburg that hasn’t been restored,” Janney said. “I think we can bring it back to life. I see a heck of a demand for it.”

The three-story, 20,000-square-foot brick building with “Janney Marshall Co. Importers Manufacturers Wholesales” painted on the front was the home of a wholesale grocery and supply business for 106 years. The original portion dates to 1872, the middle portion of the building was added in the 1880s, and the back part was built in 1905.

Janney–Marshall Co., which closed in 2017, had once needed all that space to store everything from the egg cartons, face creams and Janney–Marshall’s own Rising Sun Tavern Coffee, which was guaranteed “unmatched anywhere in the world for the money” that it would sell to country stores.

“This was a big deal in its day,” Janney said. “It was the Walmart of its era.”

He intends to keep the exterior of the building looking the same, with a few touch-ups that include repointing some of the brick and refreshing the painted signs. He’s also gotten the Architectural Review Board’s approval to reopen previously bricked-in windows and doors and remove metal awnings that were installed in 1955.

Ninety percent of the warehouse’s 80 windows had been plastered over at some point, which helped to preserve them. They’re being repaired and will be reinstalled.

The developer still needs four approvals from City Council, which will hold a public hearing on them when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

These include removing the roughly half-acre site from the Railroad Station Overlay District, which would allow the building to have three more residential units than the overlay allows. The Railroad Station Overlay District is designed to make sure that development, redevelopment and street geometry patterns are compatible with what’s already within the area near the Fredericksburg train station.

Janney has proffered that he would develop the site in accordance with the general development plan he submitted, although that is subject to minor adjustments. He also said the site will be monitored for anything of archaeological value. If anything is found, documentation will be provided to the Planning Department.

The Janney–Marshall building will still remain in the Commercial Downtown zoning district, so Janney also needs a special-use permit for a mixed-use residential density of 12 units. Only nine are allowed by-right.

He also needs a special exception so 2,100 square feet of the project can be used for non-residential use. Mixed-use regulations require that 25 percent of the space be for non-residential use, which would be a minimum of 6,393 square feet in this case.

In addition, an off-site easement across city-owned property is needed to install underground electrical and gas service lines and meters. Landscaping would be replaced once the work is completed.

The Janney–Marshall building is in a historically industrial area of downtown Fredericksburg that is undergoing a significant revitalization.

Fredericksburg developer Mike Adams of JON Properties and Jon Van Zandt of Van Zandt Restorations in Fredericksburg, for example, are redeveloping the Janney–Marshall Coffee Co. building, which was built in 1884, as the Lofts at Frederick Street. That building was originally part of a complex that included the Janney–Marshall building.

Janney is working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on using federal and state historic tax credits to rehabilitate his building. The interior will be given an industrial vibe with exposed brick walls and duct work, along with the original maple floors.

The tax credits come with several requirements, which include keeping the shed that’s attached to the building and the residential units as apartments for five years. He said that he doesn’t have any use for the shed and isn’t sure what he will do with it.

The three one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments that he’s planning to build, however, will likely be sold as condos after the five years is up. Janney said the residential units will appeal to commuters who want the convenience of being able walk across the street to the train station, and people who want their living space on one level.

“There are a huge number of people who want one-level,” he said.

The commercial space could be rented as offices or possibly converted into a gym or community-use space.

Janney said that over the course of his career he’s seen people move out of the city to developments in the surrounding counties.

“In the past 10 years, we’re all moving back to the core,” he said. “I think Fredericksburg is very exciting.”

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407


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