For all intents and purposes, the property sale is done.

Ranson officials have OK’ed a final deal to sell a former industrial brownfield site in the city’s central Old Town. The price tag—$10 for 5.9 acres in the city’s downtown. 

The city council voted unanimously on May 3 to allow Mayor Keith “Duke” Pierson to complete the final legal steps on the transaction. A formal action to sign over the property­—commonly known as the Powhatan  site for the initial foundry that operated there—to New Design Development is scheduled to take place during a council meeting on Tuesday. 

New Design Development was formed in February 2021 as the corporate entity to develop the foundry site. Its principals are Todd Secatello of Kearneysville, Anthony Husted of Martinsburg and Thomas Meyer of Martinsburg. Each owner has construction project experience in the Eastern Panhandle.

In December 2020, the three principals first met with Ranson officials to explore the group’s purchase and development of the foundry site off North Mildred Street.

About 96 townhomes are planned for the site. So are commercial office and retail spaces spanning roughly 18,000 square feet to front Mildred Street for about 350 feet. A restaurant might be one of the first commercial tenants, Secatello said.

The townhomes will have three bedrooms, a garage and about 1,800 square feet of living space, Secatello said. They would most likely sell with $300,000 price tags or more, he said. 

New Design’s owners say they want to match the city’s overall vision to establish a multi-use redevelopment that blends with and enhances a traditional Main Street style that mixes commercial and residential uses. A public community gathering space between the residential and commercial buildings is part of a still loosely sketched concept for the property, Secatello said. The common area would accommodate and encourage events and activities, such as open-air concerts and community events.

The former foundry site is bounded by North George Street, Beltline Avenue, W. 7th Avenue and North Mildred Street. Earlier reports from city officials stated the foundry site was nearly 10 acres, but that land total included public streets and a city stormwater management system, Edward Erfurt, Ranson’s assistant city manager, reported last week.

As a former brownfield site, the foundry property has been cleaned up for residential development, but with a few restrictions. For example, the townhomes can’t have basements, and they will be connected to city water service as required by state environmental safety officials, Erfurt and Secatello said.

New Design will be hiring engineers with experience developing on former brownfield sites, Secatello said.

The city of Ranson acquired the property in 2009 as a brownfield site. Then over the years the city obtained about $3 million in grants and low-interest loans to remediate the site and prepare it for redevelopment. The remediation included tearing down abandoned and dilapidated factory buildings.

Townhomes will be built first on the property, and the commercial portion will come later, Secatello said. Townhomes will line the first public street built across the property from 7th Avenue to Beltline Avenue, he said.

New Design plans to sell the first 60 residential lots to another developer to break ground quickly, Secatello said. “And then we’re going to build the rest,” he said. “That’s what the plan is now. That’s what we discussed.”

New Design will be required to build at least 20 townhomes a year, he said. 

Secatello said he hopes the project obtains its first construction permit from the city within a month. The permit would be a lot grading permit for the first townhome. 

“Shovels in the ground, I’m hoping within the next month,” he said.

The project could be completed as early as 18 months, Secatello said.

For several years, the former foundry site has laid empty on North Mildred Street across from the Southern States farm supply store. 

The Powhatan Iron & Brass Foundry was the first industrial manufacturer to operate a factory at the current location in 1892. Kidde Manufacturing, a company that made smoke alarms and other products, last used the site for manufacturing. (Because of that history, the property is alternately referred to as the Powhatan and the Kidde foundry site.)

Employing about 125 people at the time, the Kidde foundry closed its doors in 2004. United Technologies in Farmington, Connecticut, purchased the property. Afterward, the company discovered an underground stream of lead contamination that had spread through the area’s soil and in underground water. The pollution migrated to residential properties next to the plant, including an apartment house that was taken down. 

United Technologies closed the facility and turned the site over to the city about five years later. A combination of federal environmental remediation grants and municipal funding allowed Ranson officials to address the environmental problems and prepare the site for redevelopment today. 

Pierson and other city officials have envisioned a mixed-use development of homes and businesses on the site to spur a resurgence of Ranson’s Old Town central district. Although Ranson officials have recently reviewed or approved 1,000 residential and commercial development sites, the Powhatan project will be the first large-scale development in the city’s downtown for many years, Erfurt pointed out.  

Born and raised in Ranson with deep roots in the community (his grandfather served the city council for more than 20 years), Secatello recalled how the former Kidde factory provided him with one of his first jobs as a teenager. 

Secatello acknowledged that he and Ranson Mayor Keith “Duke” Pierson were previously neighbors. But city chatter that he and the mayor have coordinated any deal over the foundry site is false, Secatello said.

He said the foundry site should become an attractive draw of activity that increases property values and improves the quality of living for Ranson’s downtown. City officials point out how the site is within walking distance to the major employers of Jefferson Memorial Hospital, American Public University and the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.  

“We’re excited,” Secatello said. “It’s going to be a very nice community in Old Town. It will be good for every business there.”

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