WINCHESTER — The future home of several of Winchester’s government agencies is inching closer toward completion.
Corey MacKnight, the city’s facilities maintenance and parking division manager, said renovations of the Creamery Building at 21-25 S. Kent St. are on track to be finished by mid-February, just before the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the 26th District Court Service Unit for Winchester-Frederick County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are scheduled to move in.
“This is a solid building,” MacKnight said while conducting a Friday morning tour of the property. “They put a lot of thought into the way they originally built it.”
Winchester bought the 30,000-square-foot Creamery Building at 21-25 S. Kent. St. in February 2018, two months after the city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) purchased it from Shenandoah University. The EDA sold the property for the same price it had paid: $1.625 million.
Renovations were expected to cost $2 million, but numerous factors — international trade wars, rising material prices, construction firms stretched thin by a growing number of building projects — led to project bids coming in 20% higher than expected. MacKnight said design changes shaved $126,000 off the cost, but the city still had to add $400,000 to the financing bond it plans to issue on Sept. 23. A public hearing on the bond issuance, which will total $2.4 million, is scheduled for Sept. 10 in Rouss City Hall.
A lack of space in City Hall, the Timbrook Public Safety Building and the Joint Judicial Center prompted Winchester’s decision to buy the Creamery Building, which previously housed 10 private offices plus a dental practice.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Court Service Unit left the overcrowded Joint Judicial Center in 2015 and moved into rented space in the former F&M Bank building on the Loudoun Street Mall. Winchester has paid $262,041 in rent per year to house the two offices, with $50,630 reimbursed annually by Frederick County for its share of the Court Service Unit. The leases for those offices will expire at the end of February.
The Winchester Treasurer’s and Commissioner of the Revenue’s offices in Rouss City Hall are expected to move into the Creamery Building in late winter or early spring, MacKnight said. At that time, their current spaces on the second floor of City Hall will be converted for other uses.
The Winchester Fire and Rescue Department moved into the north end of the Creamery Building’s third floor on May 30, freeing up space in the Timbrook Building that was needed by the Winchester Police Department. The Fire and Rescue Department’s offices are fully renovated, but the sounds of hammering and sawing from Lantz Construction Co. crews continue elsewhere in the building.
MacKnight said there are no plans to put offices in the building’s basement because it is in a floodway.
“We can’t store any important documents down there, and we don’t want to put any people down there,” he said.
The Court Service Unit will be on the south end of the first floor, which has already been gutted by construction workers.
The same is true for the entire second floor, which will house the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. The city’s Victim Witness Assistance Program, which is part of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, will go up to the south end of the third floor, next to the Fire and Rescue Department.
The north end of the first floor is the future home of the Treasurer’s and Commissioner of the Revenue’s offices, which will be located next to each other just as they are now in Rouss City Hall. On Friday, it was hard to envision what the space will become because it was littered with construction debris.
“That’s where the restroom is going to be,” MacKnight joked as he pointed to a pair of old, broken toilets.
The entrances to the financial offices will be on the north end beneath a set of exterior stairs. MacKnight said this area will be transformed into an enclosed vestibule with a set of double doors that leads into a shared lobby for the treasurer’s and commissioner’s offices.
MacKnight said he doesn’t know exactly when those two offices will relocate into the Creamery Building, but it will be shortly after the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Court Service Unit settle into their new digs.
“I can’t move them all at the same time,” he said with a laugh.