Some Worried About Main Street's Future

By: Tim Schmidt
Posted 11/7/19

During the construction of the existing Warren County Courthouse, Alouise Marschel remembers the inconvenience of having the various county offices temporarily located off-site. At that time, many of …

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Some Worried About Main Street's Future


During the construction of the existing Warren County Courthouse, Alouise Marschel remembers the inconvenience of having the various county offices temporarily located off-site. At that time, many of the county departments were located in the old bank building now housing Castaways Resale and Consignment Shop near the intersection of Highway 47 and Main Street. The drive for Marschel and others located on Main Street in Warrenton who visit county offices regularly will be even longer in the future. Last week, the county commissioners announced they will purchase a 3.28-acre tract located on Mockingbird Lane off South Highway 47. The property will be used to build a new government building to house offices for the commissioners, county clerk, treasurer, assessor and health department. The existing courthouse will continue to house the sheriff's department, circuit clerk, prosecuting attorney and other court-related offices. "I don't think it's a good decision for the downtown area," said Marschel, who works for Warrenton attorney and title company owner Darryl Hicks. "I think it will hurt the businesses. A lot of your businesses are centered around the courthouse." The two other sites the commissioners considered were properties behind the current courthouse on land already owned by the county and a 4.5-acre parcel in the Brune Office Park, located just across the highway from where the new building will be constructed. The commissioners agreed to purchase the Mockingbird Lane property for $500,069 - or $3.50 per square foot. The Brune Office Park was listed at $784,080 or $4 per square foot. According to preliminary cost estimates, including land acquisition and construction costs, the Mockingbird Lane property will save the county around $284,000 compared to the Brune Office Park location. What wasn't included in the price may be the convenience factor, business owners say. Earlier this year a petition was submitted to the commissioners from Main Street businesses and employees lobbying for the government building to be built in the downtown area. Several elected and non-elected county officials met with the commissioners in March to voice their support for a downtown site. Debbie Callaway, who owns Brewskies on Main Street, said her family's restaurant could possibly see fewer customers because of the move. "I think it's stupid it's being moved," Callaway said. "To me it makes sense to have everything in one location." The commissioners, however, believe the new site will be easily accessible for all visitors. Throughout the lengthy site selection process, they said they wanted their decision to be based on cost, parking and growth potential. "There has been some downtown businesses that say they don't have room for their patrons to park," Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner said. Not all business owners on Main Street disagree with the move. For example, Teresa Lee, who owns Dood's Barber Shop, explained that her customers may see a benefit. "I think it will be better for parking," Lee said. Parking was one of the 25 criteria used in the study by Treanor Architects P.A. The Mockingbird Lane location and Brune Office Park both graded the same on parking with the downtown area a distant third. Warrenton Mayor Greg Costello admitted he was surprised by the location the commissioners selected. However, he preferred the city not take a stance either way on where the county facility should be built. The city had previously said it would work with the county on downtown parking issues. "The government will still be downtown, but there is change," Costello said. "You will just have to see how it pans out. We have to wait and see." The commissioners and others agreed it will take 20 or 30 years to determine if the decision to move from the downtown area was the correct one. "It was a big commitment," Presiding Commissioner Arden Engelage said. "I really feel it's the right decision."