Leesburg developer Bruce Brownell filed a rezoning application with the Town of Purcellville this week for a major restaurant, hotel and apartment complex.
The site of the $10 million project is the Contee Adams Seed Co., housed in several large buildings on three acres at the northwest edge of town. Brownell is seeking a rezoning from industrial to commercial.
Brownell bought the land last fall for $700,000 from Lynn Adams and his mother, Evelyn Adams. The company has sold farm crop seed and fertilizer to area farmers and farm suppliers since 1943.
Brownell said he hopes to build a restaurant and hotel that will be of such stature as to attract customers from a long distance, much like the Inn at Little Washington, Va., which draws people from throughout the metropolitan area despite its location 70 miles west of Washington.
Brownell said he would not build a commercial and office complex such as Market Station, which he built in Leesburg several years ago, in a town the size of Purcellville. "Purcellville (population 2,200) just doesn't have that kind of population," he said.
But a fine restaurant would not depend on a local population for its success, Brownell said. "If you create a restaurant that's fine enough that people will drive to it, it doesn't matter if it's in Purcellville. If it's good enough, it will become its own destination," he said.
Brownell also plans to include apartments in the project.
He said he has offered to give the old Washington and Old Dominion train depot, which lies on the property, to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The depot is near the western end of the W&OD, now the park authority's bicycle and jogging trail.
Brownell expects to begin work on the project sometime next year. He said that while specific plans for buildings are still being formulated, he intends to develop the property himself rather than resell it.
Lynn Adams will continue to operate the seed company at its present site until November, and is looking for a new location in or near Purcellville. He will continue the business if he finds a suitable site, Adams said.
Adams said he had not planned to sell the property until Brownell offered to buy it last year. "He gave me a good price for it, and I owed some money, and so I sold it," Adams said.
"We walked around and waved our arms a little at the boundaries and arrived at a price and made a deal."
In addition to the thousands of bushels of farm crop seed that Adams sells annually, he purchases about $150,000 worth of seed from Loudoun County farmers each year.
Purcellville Mayor Eric Zimmerman said Brownell's plans are "a step in the right direction" for the town, particularly because Brownell plans to renovate rather than tear down the buildings, which Zimmerman said are "not in terribly good shape."
"And I'm sure that, given Brownell's history, he'll do a fine job fixing it up," Zimmerman said.
The buildings, primarily the old flour mill and seed company structures, were built in 1874, according to Lynn Adams.
The tallest buildings in the Purcellville streetscape, the Adams Seed Co. has for years been a kind of local landmark, complete with the now-dilapidated mounted elk head on the front of the seed company.
Adams bought the elk head at a local school auction for 50 cents in the early 1970s and mounted it near the company's front door.