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Manassas leaders float idea of downtown co-working space

New Owners to Combine Best of Past, Present and Future to Transform 100-Year-Old
Hynson Department Store Building Into Flagship Office Space

Manassas City officials propose spending up to $200,000 to place a co-working space inside the newly acquired downtown Fiducial building.

The co-working space would serve entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in the market to rent personal workspaces, offices, and conference room space to hold client meetings. The move comes after the Mason Enterprise Center, which catered to small start-up businesses on the Science Technology Campus of George Mason University in Prince William County, was shuttered a year ago.

The vacant Fiducial building, once home to Fauquier Bank, was jointly purchased earlier this month by ECU Communications and Whitlock Wealth Managment. ECU will relocate its offices from Prince William County to the 2nd floor of the building. Whitlock also plans to open a second office there.

The $200,000 would be used to build out the 1st floor of the building for the co-working space, according to sources familiar with the project. The money would be a one-time investment on the city’s part, and funds could come from a pot of about $600,000 the Manassas City Economic Development Authority has in reserve — not taxpayer funds.

A group made up of city administrators, Historic Manassas, Inc. officials, and the new owners of the Fiducial building approached the EDA about acquiring the funds, according to sources.

The city’s EDA is funded by monies it receives from outstanding loans issued by private banks and backed by the city and state economic development authorities. The city’s EDA collects a tenth of one percent of each outstanding bond at the end of the year, said EDA Chairman Holmes Smith.

The city’s EDA also provides grants to help city businesses open and expand. Recently it gave $20,000 in grant money to help open Jirani Coffeehouse in downtown, and The New School on Liberia Avenue to open its doors, Smith added.

The one-time $200,000 for the co-working center would be a one-time, good-faith investment to spur new business in the city. Some cities, like Fairfax City, which provided $25,000 from its annual fiscal 2017 budget to fund its Mason Enterprise Center located off the university campus, can opt to fund incubators on a yearly basis.

Mason Enterprise Center business incubators in Woodbridge and Spotsylvania County have closed. A Mason Enterprise Center at the Science and Technology Campus of George Mason in Prince William is now the Serious Games Institute. Stafford County leaders this month voted to use $500,000 fund a new business incubator in that county.

If the Manassas co-working space fails within three years, the money must be paid back to the EDA, sources said.

Fredericksburg provide a $50,000 grant to Fredxchange so it could open its co-working space called “The Foundry” which opened in August 2015.

Neither the Manassas City Council or the EDA have held public discussions about the project. A straw poll during a closed session at the EDA’s last meeting May 17 ended with two Board members in support of the project, two who opposed it, and three others on the seven-member board seeking more information about the proposal, sources said.

Historic Manssas Inc., the city’s downtown promotional arm, would be tapped to staff the co-working center, promote it, and recruit new businesses to rent space the center, sources said. The organization is already charged with promoting the city’s downtown by holding events, and advertising empty storefronts.

New responsibilities at the co-work space would be an expansion of Historic Manassas Inc’s role in downtown. Any additional expenses incurred by the expansion of duties, to include new staff, would be paid for by the building’s owners, sources said.

ECU Communications Founder and President Jackie Krick and her company provide marketing and recruitment advertising for Federal Government agencies. She has received multiple calls from interested business owners about renting space in her new building, she said.

Krick said she started her business from her kitchen table and would have benefited from a co-working space early on. She declined to comment about the co-working space eyed for her building. 

“We want somebody to fill the space as soon as possible,” said Krick.

EDA Chairman Holmes Smith said he wanted to hold a public meeting on the matter “as soon as possible.” Smith suggested that he could call a meeting of the EDA in the conference room of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce at 7:30 p.m. June 16 to discuss the matter for the first time publicly.

News
McAuliffe headed to Micron in Manassas to sign FOIA bill

mcauliffe-manassas-1

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in Manassas on Friday to sign into a law a piece of legistlation dealing with the Freedom of Information Act

SB645, the exempt records concerning critical infrastructure information bill, introduced by freshman Sen. Jeremy McPike defines what exactly is “critical infrastructure” information.

The bill comes after several state agencies have asked major corporations, to include railroads, utility companies, and cyber security providers for information about how it plans to respond to national security threats or attacks.

Those organizations have been less than forthcoming when it comes to providing that information, a McPike spokeswoman said, because of fears the secure information would appear on a public website, and that information falling, ultimately, into the wrong hands.

McAuliffe is expected to sign the bill into law at 12:30 p.m. Friday during a visit to Micron Technologies, located at 9600 Godwin Drive in Manassas.

Manassas wants to know what keeps you coming back to Downtown, and what more you want to see.

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Historic Manassas, Inc. (HMI) is in the process of re-branding itself and wants public input.

HMI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit contracted by the City of Manassas, but many people are unaware of what HMI does for the community.

However, much of what the community participates in is planned and coordinated by HMI.

“Many people hear ‘Historic’ Manassas and automatically think we run the museum and the historical landmarks in the City, but that’s not us,” said Executive Director Debbie Haight.

HMI created a short survey to gather a general idea of what people that HMI is, what draws them to a great downtown area, and more. The survey is designed to take no longer than 15 minutes of one’s time and also provides for an opportunity to win a gift card to the shops and restaurants in historic downtown Manassas.

HMI’s survey has only been up and running for less than a week, but the response has been incredible.

“The responses we’ve received so far have already shown us that people are confusing what our organization does,” said Haight. “However, it’s exciting to see so many people invested in the downtown district and we can’t wait to show them what they are helping us to create.”

After a brief look at the results many people are excited about all that has happened in Downtown Manassas over the last few years with new events and art initiatives and all that is to come.

If you have a few moments, consider taking this short survey and getting your opinions and thoughts heard here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FB3XSZ6.  The survey will be up through Sunday, May 29.

 

News
What’s the worst part about your commute? Leaders want to know. Seriously.

Dulles Metrorail Megaproject underway at Rt. 66 and 267, Falls Church.

There’s a plan to spend more than $330 $23 billion on transportation improvements in Northern Virginia by 2040.

That plan is called “TransAction 2040,” and transportation planners want you to become more familiar with it. A meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday in Manassas Park where consultants from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority — the agency that approves and doles ranks regional transportation projects making them eligible for state funding  — will ask a simple question: What’s wrong with your commute.

Obviously, if you live in Northern Virginia, there’s not one simple answer.

The responses will be used to update TransAction — a long-range planning guide that identifies what roadways need improvements, and how to better fund and expand transit. The list also serves as a way to tell state legislators in Richmond about the problems Northern Virginia drivers face on a daily basis.

“NVTA is one of the most progressive approaches to traffic control that I’ve seen,” said Manassas City Councilman Jonathan Way. “They monitor transportation funding, something that we in Northern Virginia value very much because we’re putting more money in than we’re getting back.”

“Our priorities are straight forward.  We must seek to improve traffic flow through the Route  28 corridor,” Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones states in an email. ” It has become a bottleneck that traps citizens for protracted periods just trying to get to Centreville and I-66.  We are also very interested in the VRE sponsored project to construct a parking facility in Manassas Park to provide additional capacity for VRE ridership.  The more cars we can take off the road, the more efficiently traffic can move.”  

Consultants will use the feedback as they implement updates to the TransAction2014 plan.

The program is separate from the more than 20 projects evaluated by the state for possible funding. The plans were reviewed for their potential to reduce traffic delays, congestion, and to increase access to jobs within a 45 to 60-minute time span by the year 2020.

At the top of the list: Improvements to the Interstate 66 / Route 28 interchange in Centreville.

NVTA will hold a workshop on its TransAction plan at the Manassas Park Community Center. It is open to the public.

Manassas & Manassas Park Democrats announce nomination process for 2016 local elections

The Manassas and Manassas Park Cities Democratic Committee (MMPCDC) has scheduled assembled caucuses to nominate Democratic candidates for Manassas and Manassas Park races in the November 8, 2016 General Election.

Specifically, the MMPCDC seeks to nominate Democratic candidates for mayor and city council in each city and for Manassas City treasurer (subject to a special election for that office being placed on the November 8 ballot). In each city, three city council seats and one mayoral seat are up for election this November.

Candidates who seek the Democratic Party nomination for any of those offices must submit a completed Declaration of Candidacy form and a $250 filing fee to the MMPCDC by Friday, May 27 at 5 pm. Complete details–including the Call to Caucus, the Declaration of Candidacy form, and the Caucus Rules-are posted on the MMPCDC website, manassascitydemocrats.com.

If more than one candidate for any elected office should properly file for the Democratic nomination by the May 27th deadline, an assembled caucus will be held to select the nominee. The caucuses for Manassas City nominations are scheduled for Monday, June 6, 7:00 pm, at Manassas City Hall, 9027 Center St, in the first floor Council Chambers.

The caucuses for Manassas Park nominations are scheduled for Wednesday, June 8, 7:00 pm, at the Manassas Park Police Station, 329 Manassas Dr, in the 1st floor conference room. For both sets of caucuses, the doors will open at 6:30 pm for check-in and close promptly at 7:00 pm. Voting will be open to all registered voters from the respective city who sign a standard Democratic declaration form and arrive for voting before 7:00 pm.

If the number of qualified candidates who file for a race by the May 27 deadline does not exceed the number of available seats, the Chair may declare those candidates to be the Party’s nominees and cancel the respective nominating Caucus. If there are no contested races for any seat, the Chair may cancel the Caucus entirely. A notice of all such caucus cancellations will be posted on the MMPCDC website by May 27 at 7:30 pm. For more information, call 571-358-9893 or visit http://www.manassascitydemocrats.com/?p=1258.

News
Purdy scolds administration, resigns from Manassas School Board

Ellen Purdy resigned from the Manassas City School Board six months before the end of her term.

Purdy made the surprise announcement a week ago during School Board member comment time during the Board’s regular public meeting.

“We didn’t expect that,” said Manassas School Board Chairman Tim Demeria.

Purdy did not respond to Potomac Local for a request for comment on this story. She read a prepared statement when she announced her resignation, effective July 1. (more…)

News
Crawfish lovers brave cool temps, winds for Cajun Occasion 2

Cajun Occasion 2 on the lawn of the Manassas Museum. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]
Cajun Occasion 2 on the lawn of the Manassas Museum. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]
Cajun Occasion 2 on the lawn of the Manassas Museum. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]
Cajun Occasion 2 on the lawn of the Manassas Museum. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]
Cajun Occasion 2 on the lawn of the Manassas Museum. [Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local]

About 200  people came to the lawn of the Manassas Museum on Sunday to celebrate the second-annual Cajun Occasion.

The event is hosted by Okras Cajun Creole restaurant in Downtown Manassas. The family picnic offered an all-you-can-eat Louisiana buffet and craw fish boil.

Volunteers from Volunteer Prince William manned the beer kegs and served Abita Beer. The non-profit organization raised about $1,500 to support its programs, to include the “Un-Trim A Tree” program that provides coats and toys to needy children at Christmastime.

News
A new library for Manassas and Manassas Park? Panel to examine the fate of Central Library.

Central Library provides books, reference materials, and online access to people in Manassas, Manassas Park, and those who live in cities’ outskirts in Prince William County.

The 45-year-old building sits on Mathis Avenue on a tract of land just barely located in Prince William. The land was a gift from Manassas Park.

Central Library is reaching the end of its useful life, said Manassas City Manager Patrick Pate. Now a new committee this year will ask residents what to do with Central, and some of the options include renovate it, move it, or do nothing.

“If it’s relocated, Manassas would like a full-service library, ” said Pate. (more…)

News
Manassas passes budget, will spend $1.3 million on new vehicles

manassascitycouncil

The Manassas City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved its fiscal 2017 budget.

City leaders adopted a tax rate of $1.403 per $100 of assessed property value. The average residential property tax bill will increase about three percent to $3,778, said City Manager Patrick Pate.

About $54 million of the city’s budget will be transferred to the city’s school division, 2.625 percent more than the division won last year’s budget, Pate added.

City Council voted to fully fund the city capital improvement program for the next year.

It includes:

— $1.3 million in new vehicle purchases for police and fire departments

— $141,000 for new voting machines

— $168,000 for pump and equipment replacement at the city’s water authority

— $80,000 for improvements to Manassas Regional Airport, to include a new runway lighting system

Fiducial building in Downtown Manassas sells for $1.3 million

New Owners to Combine Best of Past, Present and Future to Transform 100-Year-Old
Hynson Department Store Building Into Flagship Office Space

“The possibilities and opportunities it offers are almost endless”

ECU Communications, a full-service digital marketing and advertising firm, and Whitlock Wealth Management, a full-service Ameriprise financial planning firm, have jointly purchased the historic building located at 9073 Center Street in the heart of Downtown Manassas. ECU and Whitlock Wealth Management will share the second floor of the building, and rehabilitate the ground floor for future rental.

The unoccupied building sold for $1.3 million. 

Built in 1915, the building occupies a prime location at the intersection of Center and Main Streets, just two blocks from the Manassas train station and parking garage and surrounded by restaurants, shops and art galleries. The building will serve as Manassas-based ECU Communications’ headquarters and a second location for Whitlock Wealth Management, which has its main office in Lake Ridge. City Manager Pat Pate underscored that “the addition of these two professional firms to Downtown Manassas exemplifies the continuing diversification of the City’s business base, as more and more firms choose this historic, vibrant location”.

“We’re working with the City to make the most of the building’s location, history and character. The possibilities and opportunities it offers are almost endless,” said Jackie Krick, president of ECU. “This acquisition will also help ECU continue to grow our private sector and local client base,” Ms. Krick added. Bennet Whitlock, principal of Whitlock Wealth Management, concurred. “Not only is this a great location,” Mr. Whitlock said, “but it allows us to significantly expand our business footprint into the City of Manassas and central Prince William County, which will help us serve more investor clients.”

As an Ameriprise Advisor, Whitlock Wealth Management specializes in retirement and estate planning, wealth preservation strategies and comprehensive investment planning. ECU Communications specializes in digital and multicultural advertising and marketing, serving government, corporate and nonprofit clients. For more information about Whitlock Wealth Management, please phone 703.492.7732 or visit online at whitlockwealth.com. For more information about ECU Communications, please phone 703.754.7728 or visit ecucomm.com.

 

News
Still no construction on Downtown Manassas apartment complex

A rendering of what Manassas Station condos would look like from Prince William Street.

Almost a year ago, Manassas City approved the construction of a new apartment complex in the heart of Downtown Manassas. But to date, there has been no sign of development on the site.

Manassas Station, the proposed four-story apartment complex, promised to include 85 one-bedroom units and 55 two-bedroom units. Christopher Companies., the project developer, purchased the property last July. The apartment complex would replace the ABC Photo Processing Center on Prince William Street.

For more than 40 years, Christopher Companies has developed commercial and residential projects in Virginia and Delaware. Recently, the developer oversaw the construction of the Historic Courts of Manassas. That community is in foreclosure because of funding issues.

A Christopher Companies representative did not reply to a request for comment on this story.

In addition to the apartment complex, Christopher Companies promised to make about $180,000 in improvements in parking and public safety in Old Town. The developer also agreed to give more than $650,000 to the city’s public school system to offset the costs of educating students moving into the complex.

(more…)

City of Manassas celebrates its business community in May

manassasbusinessowners

Recognizing that businesses are the backbone of Manassas, the Manassas City Council recently issued a proclamation night declaring May “Business Appreciation Month.”

“The strength of the City of Manassas relies on the strength of its business community,” says Mayor Harry J. Parrish II. “Our businesses create jobs and make the City a great place to live, work, and do business.” (more…)

News
Manassas homeowner first in city to install solar panels

solarpanels

Mike Freeland made history last year. In August, he became the first Manassas resident to install solar panels on his home.

This was something Freeland had always wanted to do. But he repeatedly got sidetracked and kept putting the ecofriendly initiative on the back burner.

One day, while perusing his church’s website, he saw a post about Interfaith Power and Light, a co-op devoted to green initiatives. Freeland decided to join the co-op for various reasons.

I wanted to decrease my carbon footprint, and also the price was affordable,” Freeland said. “I also get a 30 percent tax credit for solar panels.”

Interfaith Power and Light was started in 2000 in San Francisco. Its mission is to respond to global warming by promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The co-op has helped inform thousands of congregations nationwide about these issues.

Through the co-op, Freeland contacted Edge Energy, a green government contractor that operates in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., to install solar panels on his home. “The installers were good at what they did, and they were also friendly,” Freeland said. “I would definitely recommend them to relatives and friends.”

(more…)

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