The Leesburg Town Council looks to entertain offers on how to breathe new life into its Liberty Street parking lot.
According to Economic Development Department Director Russell Seymour, the town has received a few expressions of interest from the development community in partnering with the council on redevelopment of the site. The two-acre site is zoned B-1, for commercial use, but is only being used for public parking and an office for the town’s public works staff.
Seymour said that while parking was important, other areas of town are meeting that need. What the downtown is lacking, however, is space for large meetings or conferences.
“A lot of times [visitors] are staying in our hotels but they’re going out of town for meetings. A number of businesses have told us point blank on multiple occasions ‘we’re tired of having to leave Leesburg to have a meeting’,” he said.
The Liberty Street lot could be an opportunity for a public-private partnership, Seymour said. The town must follow both state code and its own guidelines on public-private partnerships, last updated in 2018, in pursuing such an endeavor. The state code, with its Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act, defines qualifying projects for public-private partnerships in a number of ways, including a building or facility that meets a public purpose and is developed or operated by or for a public entity; or any improvements necessary or desirable to any unimproved locally- or state-owned real estate. Not all facets of a project need to have a public use, Town Attorney Christopher Spera said, but the uses cannot be exclusively private.
Although no specific proposals were mentioned during Monday’s work session, local attorney Peter Burnett has shared his unsolicited proposal for the site with the council. Burnett’s project envisions age-restricted senior apartments; a conference center; theater; restaurant; and structured parking.
The entire council voiced support for initiating a Request for Proposals to solicit interested parties in proposing their own public-private partnership projects for the site. The council will first review the solicitation before it is posted, Town Manager Kaj Dentler said.
The council ought to strike while the iron is hot, Seymour said.
“I think there is interest now. There’s not as much property remaining downtown and this is a target for a lot of developers. We’ve been approached a lot in the last six to eight months about this [site]. There’s a lot of interest not just downtown but at this particular site,” he said.