Manassas is in talks with a developer to create the city’s first waterfront destination.
The focus is 40 acres of land that sits along Gateway Boulevard, between Godwin Drive and Prince William Parkway. A Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office sits on the land.
Manassas City Economic Development Director Patrick Small said a large “destination” tenant would anchor the new development. It won’t be a grocery store, and retail would be only a part of the tenant’s focus. Small could not provide a potential name of a business that might fill the space negotiations are ongoing.
Offices, and a mixture of up to 500 apartments and townhomes would also be built on the property that is now owned by the city. The City Council last month voted to hold another in a series of closed sessions meetings to work out the details of a required rezoning. The city is in talks to sell the land to Buchanan Partners for it to be developed, but not before the developer agrees to meet demands placed on it by residents and city government.
Buchanan has developed other buildings around the city, including building at the Manassas Regional Airport and a business center on Euclid Avenue.
“In many ways, this project represents the future of the City of Manassas, at least economically,” said Small, whose office has spent the past 18 months working on a new development on this site.
A similar deal between the city and Lerner Enterprises in 2012. City officials blamed it on the economy.
A series of restaurants would line the waterfront, which is the Cannon Branch lake that can be seen from the interchange at Prince William Parkway and Route 28. The development could also house two extended stay hotels to serve area businesses and patrons of the Manassas Regional Airport.
The project would sit less than a mile from Innovation Park in Prince William County, an area that is home to the George Mason University Science and Technology Campus, and home to several biotech research groups. The new retail development in Manassas could serve those who work at Innovation.
“Our competition at innovation is succeeding because the county had a vision and made the public investments necessary to attract development,” said Small, of the potential development on Gateway Drive. “Performance has lagged because the property is not shovel ready and lacks a sense of place.”
The property will require site work to get it ready for development, including grading. The Manassas City Council voted to defer the vote to move forward on the project because Vice-Mayor Jonathan way and others said they wanted to fully understand the scope of work required at the site.
Members of the City Council wanted ensure the sale of the city-owned property is handled in a transparent manner, and business is done in front of the public.
“You’ve been working on this for 18 months, the council was made aware of it six months ago, and residents were made aware of it four days ago, said Manassas Councilman Ian Lovejoy at the September 28 meeting.
Other councilmembers who wanted to move ahead on the deal didn’t understand the need for another closed door session in the name of transparency.
“It’s been a pretty transparent process,” said Councilwoman Sheryl Bass. “I feel it’s ironic to have to have anther closed session to support more transparency is a little bit of a disconnect there.”
Once ready, the Council must endorse the contracts between the city’s Economic Development Authority and Buchanan Partners. The EDA will then move ahead and negotiate the sale of the land.
Small said the city is unable to develop the land on its own.
“We cannot develop this property ourselves. In addition to needing upfront capital of $3 million for grading, clearing and utility work there will be costs to develop each site plus ongoing operation and maintenance expenses. We need a development partner with capital, construction experience and client relationships to bring additional private businesses and investments,” said Small.
The new development is expected to generate at least $3.5 million in annual tax revenues to city coffers when completed, added Small.