Warrenton Town Administrator Robert Davie is encouraged that the rejuvenation and growth that came to the county seat in 2021 will continue this year and beyond.
“In general terms, the town has been trying to put down the pavers for this growth for a number of years, and we are starting to see the results,” he said.
Davie noted that Warrenton is experiencing a number of trends that suggest that the town is in store for a bright future: young people coming to town, buying houses and starting businesses; homes that have been vacant for a long time that are now occupied and buildings that were vacant a long time being restored.
He said that signs of rejuvenation are evident in the downtown area by the resumption of work to renovate a vacant building to house Milano’s restaurant. In addition, Davie looks forward to the move of Warrenton Animal Clinic to a building on the edge of town that formerly housed an auto supply business.
“The town received a $50,000 to help with renovation,” he said.
Davie noted that the town has made a number of achievements in the area of preservation over the past year, including the receipt of the Preservation North Carolina Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit for outstanding renovation of Warrenton Town Hall, and the return of an 1890s horse- or mule-drawn wagon, Plummer Hook & Ladder Company’s first firefighting apparatus, to Warrenton for the future Plummer Hook & Ladder Museum. He said that Warrenton continues work to update the town’s National Register Historic District, which will be beneficial in securing historic tax credits.
In the area of town improvements, Davie said that an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Grant will enable Warrenton to determine what environmental issues vacant properties may have and what environmental issues prevent those properties from being redeveloped. In addition, a North Carolina Department of Transportation Tap Grant is financing installation of handicapped ramps on state streets.
Davie is encouraged by ongoing projects to renovate downtown buildings, including plans for the renovation of the historic Dameron Building at the corner of South Main and East Franklin streets into apartments with some commercial space. He noted that the town approved $100,000 in incentives over a 10-year period once the building is fully renovated.
While these projects provide physical examples of growth over the past year, Warrenton has also experienced growth through entrepreneurial opportunities, classes and programs for people with varied interests.
Davie noted that Frontier Warren is now the home of eight startup businesses and has offered a number of programs at the co-working space related to business and entrepreneurship. He added that Global Entrepreneurship Week activities at Frontier Warren were successful.
The town administrator added that Frontier Warren’s co-working space has been the site for a number of other activities, including art shows, theatrical productions and cultural programs.
Davie indicated that a $5,000 NC IDEA grant for small business classes has enabled a third cohort to complete Ice House entrepreneurship training and will allow a fourth cohort to begin classes in March.
He is encouraged by all the facets of growth that Warrenton experienced during 2021.
“Not all towns in rural North Carolina are growing. We are seeing significant growth,” Davie said.
The town administrator anticipates that the growth of 2021 will continue in 2022 and in the years to come. Davie said that Warrenton will seek $6 million in state funding to address problems in the town’s water and sewer system.
In addition, the town is working to secure grant funding for Mag’s Marketplace, which will be located in the former Just Save grocery store space.
Davie said that Preservation Warrenton has begun fundraising to develop a park at the corner of Macon and Main streets where Milano’s used to be.
In addition, a 30-space parking lot project for the property behind the Nationwide building on Main Street is expected to create two handicapped parking spaces behind the Warren County Community Center.
The year 2022 will see the continuation of a project to build three houses and repair five others through a Neighborhood Revitalization Grant, Davie said. After environmental testing for asbestos and lead is complete, the project will go out to bid.
Davie said that the many examples of growth and development made 2021 a very good year. He is excited about the possibilities of the New Year and years ahead, especially as more people in their 30s and 40s arrive and invest in the town.
“Young people investing in the town is a sign that the future is hopeful. They believe it is, and they are willing to put their money in it,” Davie said.