Work is progressing on the restoration of the nearly 140-year-old Janney–Marshall Coffee Co. building at 306-312 Frederick St. as it transitions into 5,500 square feet of commercial space on three levels.
It's the first phase of a mixed-use redevelopment project that will include 17 new condominium units called The Lofts at Frederick Street, plus four new town houses facing Charles Street, all to be completed in early 2021.
Fredericksburg developer Mike Adams of JON Properties and Jon Van Zandt of Van Zandt Restorations in Fredericksburg, who have teamed up before on other city development projects, are partnering once again to build The Lofts and the Charles Street town houses, in addition to restoring the old coffee warehouse known as the Beanery.
The partners' involvement began in 2012 when they purchased the property for $700,000, beginning a five-year process involving City Council and the city's Architectural Review Board to determine what exactly would be built on the site.
Redevelopment projects in the city's Historic District can be controversial, pitting the desire for historic preservation against plans for new construction that will help make the overall project financially feasible. Despite some friction along the way, all involved agree that this project happened thanks to the give-and-take necessary by those involved to reach an agreement.
In 2017, city officials approved the project. The agreement meant the city would lift its Railroad District Overlay District height restriction to allow the four-story structure, and the developers would make design changes sought by the city, such as reducing the height by several feet. Because the site is within the 100-year floodplain, the developers must relegate the ground level of new construction to garage space, thereby sacrificing residential square footage.
According to Van Zandt, the partnership is putting about $1 million into the restoration effort. The partners decided against using state or federal preservation tax credits, going it on their own and depending on the sales of the condos and town houses to make the project profitable.
Adams said in a recent telephone interview that seven of the 17 condo units have already been sold, and he anticipates that all will be sold by the time construction is completed in 2021.
"It is gratifying for us to be able to take what honestly was an eyesore and turn it into something that reflects the character of the city," Adams said of the Beanery. He said Kate Schwartz, the city's historic resources planner, has been supportive of the project as the partners' liaison with the ARB.
"I'm just so glad to see a roof going on that building," Schwartz said. "We looked at the rehab of that building as a priority for the city; it's what downtown is all about."
She said city officials were particularly interested in how the new and old buildings would interact, and how the floodplain and density issues would be addressed.
Adams said that including the approximately $1 million investment in the warehouse restoration, he puts the overall cost of the project at between $8 million and $9 million.
THE BUILDING'S HISTORY
The old building was originally known as Janney–Marshall's Kenmore Coffee Co. roastery and warehouse, though the company later used it as a peanut roastery and candy factory.
During a recent tour of the old coffee warehouse, Van Zandt recalled wondering as early as 2003 what would become of it.
"It looked to me like it had great character and history to it," he said.
That somewhat romantic recollection was tested when he and Adams first considered buying and restoring it.
"There was unbelievable deterioration," Van Zandt said. "There were big holes in the roof, and trees growing through the brick walls. Homeless people had been living on the third floor. Ground water had rotted some of the flooring from underneath."
In fact, the building would likely have either collapsed or been demolished had it not been bought and shored up by the previous owners. The Cymrot family, operators of Riverby Books on Caroline Street, bought the property in 2008 to save it from demolition and invested as necessary to prevent it from falling down, though the structure itself continued to deteriorate.
A COMPLEX RESTORATION
Van Zandt described the restoration project as having "a lot of parts and pieces to take apart and put back together."
That involves Van Zandt's commitment to reusing and repurposing construction materials, a wealth of which happened to be close at hand. The property included a Janney–Marshall furniture and grocery warehouse built around 1930 that abutted the coffee building. It was deemed expendable and taken down, but its huge support beams and thousands of square feet of flooring were saved, and will fulfill the wood needs not only for the Beanery restoration, but provide flooring for the new condos as well.
"I like how you can read history in the wood itself," Van Zandt said, noting the nail holes and stained areas that lend character wherever the wood is used.
The reclaimed wood was sent to JC Forest Products in Spotsylvania County, which planed and milled it, providing tongue-and-groove floor and roof boards for the 19th century structure. The roof boards will be covered with a modern version of the standing-seam metal roof called Galvalume, aluminum-zinc alloy coated steel sheeting. There's an example of it nearby at the former city gas plant, now the home of Wack General Contracting.
Van Zandt knew from the beginning that preserving the 1880 structure's brick walls during the restoration would be both crucial and difficult. Substantial wood braces were built to stabilize the walls while an interior steel framework was created to support the roof and hold the walls—which are three bricks thick—permanently in place.
A similar interior skeleton method, or "building within a building," as Van Zandt calls it, was used in his restoration of the Charles Dick House on Princess Anne Street.
Now that the Beanery's roof is being put on, windows can be installed and interior work can be completed. Soon, the remaining exterior braces will be removed and the final repairs and repointing of the bricks will take place.
When the restoration is complete, the building will offer about 5,500 square feet of commercial space for one or more tenants. Van Zandt said the interior will be left in "warehouse industrial" form, without drywall or other residential-type finishing.
Work on the old structure will have to be completed before the condominiums go up, but that doesn't mean the site preparation and engineering for The Lofts can't take place. Project manager Cliff Taylor said a steel pier support system has been driven 18 feet into the ground.
Taylor explained that since the old building has been settling on its site for nearly 140 years, it cannot be physically attached to the condo building, which can be expected to settle somewhat after construction. The new building will wrap around the old, but the two will not be connected.
CONDOS, HOUSES DUE IN 2021
Van Zandt expects framing on the condo building to begin in early 2020, with completion of the project in 2021. The project will join others nearby, such as the Purina tower and the old city gas plant that have been rescued and returned to use, along with a number of Charles Street houses built by Adams and Van Zandt, all of which are helping revitalize the neighborhood south of the train station.
Adams said the condos range in price from $425,000 to $1.2 million. "The all-brick warehouse-type of construction is going to look really good," he said.
Van Zandt said projects such as this one that have old and new components always present challenges. "But we never have problems; we only have opportunities for solutions."