Michele Ballarin, who lives on a 42-acre farm near Markham, in mid-July plans to buy the former Catholic Church property at East Lee and Fourth streets, where her company — Warrenton-based Oasis Life Sciences — plans to establish the businesses.
“We’re really just trying to bring a wellness factor and healthy lifestyle back to the daily lifestyle,” spokeswoman Alexa Wolff said of the company’s business plan. “We’re looking to bring a fine dining establishment, with an incredible experience.”
The 0.24-acre project site at 79 E. Lee St. includes three vacant brick structures that date to the early 1900s — the old sanctuary, rectory and parish hall, totaling about 7,700 square feet of space.
About six full-time and two part-time employees will work at that building. One or two clients will be onsite at a time, according to Oasis Life Sciences.
Renovation of the two-story rectory, costing less than $30,000, should be completed next month, reads the development proposal.
Under the plan, the old parish hall will be converted into a commercial kitchen that will be used for catering jobs and large parties, Ms. Wolff said.
Ms. Ballarin’s husband Iginio has helped operate restaurants for more than 50 years, Ms. Wolff said.
Executive Chef Roger Wiles also brings decades of experience to the enterprise, she said.
“He won a bunch of different awards, and he cooked for royal families, the rich and famous, heads of states and some really incredible people.”
Besides hospitality work, Ms. Ballarin, a licensed Realtor, also knows something about international intrigue.
About a decade ago, she participated in negotiations for the release of Ukrainian-owned merchant ship sailors captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
A book excerpt in the April 15, 2018, issue of Foreign Policy magazine described Ms. Ballarin as a “flamboyant West Virginian heiress . . . at the center of the tense hostage negotiations.”
Both Ms. Wolff and Warrenton Realtor Bill Chipman, who represents Mr. Dixon, refused to discuss the selling price.
“That’s another phase,” she added, declining to discuss potential sites.
On Tuesday night, the town council probably will grant Oasis Life Sciences a “tourism zone” incentive package that will forgive all business license and “tangible” business property taxes associated with the project for three years.
That would total $39,000, according to the town.
“It’s one of those things where they have to deliver” on the proposals before Warrenton would waive those taxes, town Economic Development Manager Tom Wisemiller said. “We’re not going to give it up to them upfront.”
Because of that, “there’s no fiscal risk to the town,” Mr. Wisemiller said.
“The overall concept is great,” Councilwoman Linda “Sunny” Reynolds (At large) said.
Like Wort Hog Brewing Co. at nearby 41 Beckham St., the project could mean more business activity and foot traffic for that part of town, Ms. Reynolds suggested.
“We don’t all go to Claire’s every night. I think the greatest thing is to have options.”
“I think this would be a wonderful addition,” Mayor Powell Duggan said of the proposal. “It all fits great for what we want to do.”
Adapting the old sanctuary as a restaurant represents a creative and desirable use of the structure, which has served mostly as storage for Mr. Dixon’s business since he bought the property in 2006, Mr. Duggan said.
Old Town ne “unique” and different businesses to draw more people, he added.
“Gone are the days of the drug stores and hardware stores.”
“Aside from being a big economic boost for Warrenton, I think that’s needed,” Mayor Duggan said. “To me, the more of this kind of thing you have, the better for the community, the people living here. That’s not to say I won’t have a hamburger and bacon on it.”
Mr. Wisemiller in April began discussing the project with Ms. Wolff.
“I’m very excited about it,” the town economic development manager said. “It brings a lot of capital investment and jobs to this end of town. It would be a catalyst for promoting economic development and tourism.”
He believes the businesses will help Warrenton become a “destination,” attracting people who otherwise might not visit town.