New life sought for old garage | News, Sports, Jobs

Located in historic Bedford, the former King Motor Co. building, known as the Old Ford Garage, sits at the corner of Richard and Pitt streets along the Lincoln Highway. Courtesy picture

Bedford County leaders are hoping an environmental inspection of a former gas station/garage in downtown will remove a major hurdle in finding a buyer or investor interested in repurposing the structure of 1920s.

Under the Industrial Site Reuse Program, the Bedford County Development Association will receive $17,475 toward the estimated $23,300 cost of an appraisal of the former King Motor Co. building, known locally as the old Ford garage.

Although no environmental issues were found during an initial environmental inspection, Sean Bardell of Howard Hanna Bardell Realty said potential buyers and investors have requested a second, more thorough assessment.

Located in historic Bedford, the two-story, 36,000-square-foot stone building is listed at $399,000 and sits on the corner of Richard and Pitt streets along the Lincoln Highway. It’s structurally sound, but the old metal roof will need to be replaced, Bardell said.

The garage’s current owners, Dalesmen Ventures LLC, have already completed asbestos removal from the building for a planned project that failed during the pandemic.

According to information from Bardell and Bette Slayton, President and CEO of the Bedford County Development Association, the property has housed a number of businesses over the years, beginning with the King Motor Co. which sold vehicles and Ford parts. In the 1980s, it also housed a dollar-style store and hosted weekend dances for teens, not at the same time. There was also a karate studio on the lower level, Bardell recalls, as he took lessons there as a child.

Years ago, when the building belonged to Bob Foor, the large bay windows displayed his collection of vintage automobiles.

Dalesmen purchased the property in May 2019, announcing plans to turn the building into a brewery and distillery.

Unfortunately, in January 2021, the owners of Dalesmen Distillery & Brewery announced on their website that after several months of planning and design, they had revised their plans to renovate the building at 141 E. Pitt St.

“We have spent countless months and quite a bit of money pursuing plans and carrying out preliminary work to renovate this iconic building,” Dalesmen Ventures CEO Nathan Haupt said in the post. “We are saddened to say that construction costs far exceeded our expectations, causing us to take a step back to reassess the situation.”

Bardell said local residents looked forward to the building’s renovations and were disappointed when Dalesmen pulled out of the project.

Due to the building’s past as a garage, Bardell said it was important that the environmental study be completed and any recommended repairs undertaken, but he is not sure what the assessment will yield, as so many years have passed since the property was a garage.

The station sold gasoline at one point and work on the vehicles was completed inside, so it’s possible water runoff into the sewers may have contained gasoline or oil, a he declared.

When the assessment funding was announced, a press release from the Department of Community and Economic Development said there were 24 drain outlets on the ground floor of the building. Additionally, older maps show an underground fuel storage tank in front of the property with the possibility of additional tanks being located under the sidewalks.

The assessment will include the location of reservoirs, if they still exist, soundings in the ground, the installation of temporary wells, groundwater sampling, the installation of two steam points under the slab and a final report. .

“Environmental assessments are carried out to ensure that there are no harmful chemicals or hazardous materials on a site, and are important to the redevelopment process,” Acting DCED Secretary Neil Weaver said in a statement.

The immediate future of the building depends on the valuation, said Bardell, who, while unable to disclose details, said there is a sale agreement on the building, subject to the inspection.

“They plan to renovate” was all he could reveal.

He expects the evaluation to begin within the next 30 days. It is expected to be completed in early 2023.

Slayton said the ISRP program requires a 25% match and this will be paid by Dalesmen, the owner.

The environmental study “will enable the Dalesmen, the community and a potential new owner to make informed decisions about future opportunities for the adaptive reuse of the former Ford garage”, Slayton said.

“We have a lot of hope for this building,” said Bardel. “It’s a landmark building in our downtown core.”

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