PEC and the Aldie Assemblage – An Incredible Conservation Opportunity

The Aldie Assemblage is a 6.42-acre property located in the Village of Aldie that is currently owned by the County of Loudoun. It has many natural and culturally significant features worthy of conservation, including a historic tavern building, forested slopes that mark the terminus of the Bull Run Mountains, and land that fronts Little River, part of the Goose Creek and larger Potomac Watershed. Aldie itself serves as a gateway to the Virginia Piedmont’s scenic byways, beloved villages and towns, and incredible places to hike, bike and enjoy the rural areas of Loudoun, Fauquier and beyond.

drone image with map overlay
Drone image of Aldie by Hugh Kenny. Map overlay created by PEC for reference.

For some time, The Aldie Assemblage property has been under threat of development or uses inconsistent with preserving the historic character and integrity of the surrounding village.

In December 2021, recognizing the need for a conservation solution, PEC submitted an offer to Loudoun County to purchase the property. Purchasing The Aldie Assemblage and conserving its significant resources aligns with PEC’s long-standing conservation efforts to preserve the historic and scenic character of the rural landscape along the Route 50 corridor, to conserve the unique natural and cultural features of the Bull Run Mountains, and to protect water quality in the Goose Creek watershed. Beginning in 1995 and continuing through today, dedicated volunteers, government officials and nongovernmental organizations have committed themselves to a combined effort of transportation and land use planning, investment in traffic calming and specific conservation projects to protect and enhance the communities, historic resources and conservation values. Aldie is one of the three villages central to the Route 50 Traffic Calming Plan, a national award-winning project implementing exemplary traffic calming design, engineering, and construction techniques. The Aldie Assemblage represents an opportunity to protect the entrance to the village of Aldie, restore a significant historic resource in the Aldie Tavern and other structures, and enhance public access to the village and Little River, a tributary to Goose Creek.

In September 2022, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to consider a sale of the property to PEC. Voting 7-2, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to finalize the purchase and sale agreement with PEC for the Aldie Assemblage in the amount of $600,000 and bring the negotiated agreement for action to a future Board of Supervisors Business Meeting for action.

In Defense of Aldie: Village Voices Raised and Heard

PEC’s offer to purchase the Aldie Assemblage follows many years of community concern about various planned uses of the property by Loudoun County. Loudoun County purchased the property in 2015 with plans to construct a new fire station at a size and scale that would have threatened the property’s natural and cultural resources and, more broadly, the historic character and fabric of the Village of Aldie. Responding to (and working with) the local community, Loudoun County ultimately selected another site for the fire station, at Gilbert’s Corner.

More recently, the property came under immediate threat when the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors considered transferring the Aldie Assemblage property to developer Mojax LLC as part of an effort to save a Mojax-threatened property in the historic village of St. Louis. Mojax LLC proposed building over 34,000 square feet of commercial space on the Aldie Assemblage property, larger than all existing retail in the village combined. As a result of community outcry, the deal fell through, and Aldie resident and Aldie Heritage Association member Guy Gerachis stepped forward to buy the Assemblage outright. When that fell through, the fate of the Aldie Assemblage once again became uncertain.

In late 2021, following extensive conversation with local residents, PEC made an offer to acquire the property from Loudoun County for $600,000, in order to resolve this uncertainty. In the subsequent months, Loudoun County reviewed PEC’s proposal as well as those submitted by other parties. In June, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors expressed its interest in pursuing PEC’s offer.

PEC’s conservation mission and extensive track record of work in and around Aldie make the acquisition of the Assemblage property a natural progression for our conservation work, and we are excited by the opportunity to pursue the long-term protection of the property’s natural and historic resources.

Aldie residents and numerous conservation organizations — including PEC — have worked tirelessly over the past seven years to discourage the County from pursuing development of the property in a manner that threatens the historic character and fabric of the Village of Aldie. The collective impact of those voices has brought us to this milestone today, with the Assemblage property secure for the foreseeable future.

A Community-Based Approach

PEC greatly appreciates that many Aldie residents and numerous local organizations, including the Aldie Heritage Association, the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Association, the Loudoun Historic Village Alliance, the Aldie Ruritan Club, and many others, have offered strong support for PEC’s acquisition of the property. PEC is continuing to seek input and guidance from residents and partners to ascertain the most appropriate, realistic and desirable future use of the Aldie Assemblage once the acquisition is finalized.

Some overarching hopes and dreams for the future of the property include:

  • Preserve the Integrity of the Village. Aldie stands as a critical entry point to Loudoun County’s nationally recognized historic and scenic rural landscape. Any proposed renovation and productive reuse of the Tavern building and/or any other structures on the Property will be designed at a size, scale, and intensity of use that is consistent with the character and fabric of Aldie.

  • Document and Protect the Property’s Conservation Values. PEC will document and protect the Property’s significant natural, historic, and scenic resources regardless of the specifics of any future land use plan. This entails work in consultation with the Loudoun County Heritage Commission and other qualified preservation professionals as we seek to restore the Tavern property and pursue a listing of the structure on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. More generally, PEC will record appropriate restrictions on the property to ensure lasting protection of its resources and conservation values.

  • Realize Restoration of the Tavern Building. The historic significance and current condition of the Tavern building (and other contributing structures) makes restoration and productive reuse of the structures a priority. We understand that some local residents may be interested in exploring a limited, appropriately scaled commercial / public use of the building. PEC intends to examine this opportunity. We recognize, however, that site conditions and zoning requirements of the Tavern property may limit the potential for a commercial / public use. Under such conditions, PEC will also consider restoration for the Tavern building for residential use.

  • Create Opportunities for Public Use and Access. The intersection of the Aldie Assemblage’s forested slopes (which mark the terminus of the Bull Run Mountains) and its frontage along the Little River provide an intimate natural setting that makes the Assemblage an ideal site for interpretation and conservation. With this in mind, PEC envisions exploring the creation of a small publicly accessible “Public Green” (see Aldie Assemblage Concept Map) that would provide one of the only accessible sites along the Little River – for enjoying the scenery, fishing, and, if feasible, access for non-motorized crafts.

PEC believes that the above principles provide a strong foundation for a community-based planning approach that will bring vitality and productive use of the Aldie Assemblage’s land and resources while, at the same time, respecting the essential character and history of the Village of Aldie.

We thank the Loudoun Board of Supervisors for its careful consideration of the Aldie Assemblage’s future and is pleased that the Board has elected to work with PEC to become the next steward of the property’s land and resources. We look forward to working with the County to finalize the terms of the purchase and undertake our stewardship role.