Candy Factory ACs take heat

Manassas City Council will once again have to decide whether to allow a building project to skirt historic preservation ordinances governing Old Town.

The City Council will vote Monday on whether to overturn an Architectural Review Board decision calling for the removal of four air conditioning units on top of the former Hopkins Candy Factory in Old Town. Historic preservation codes require additions to historic buildings that contrast with the original appearance of the building be “adequately masked.”

The vote comes less than two months since the council gave Trinity Episcopal Church permission to tear down its Family House at 9326 Battle St. — a decision that also ignored a board recommendation.

“This doesn’t happen often. And it is good that it does not. Good minds have come together and not come up with a solution ultimately,” said Councilman Harry “Hal” Parrish Jr, speaking at a Monday night public hearing.

Problems with the air conditioning units come at the same time that the Manassas Museum System’s $2.25 million renovation of the Candy Factory is drawing to a close.

The Center for the Arts is set to begin renting the building, owned by a limited partnership headed by the city, by the end of August.

City Manager Lawrence Hughes estimates that moving the air conditioning units from the roof to the ground, as the Review Board is requesting, would cost the city $400,000 to $600,000.

Instead, Hughes wants to have the units painted blue.

The board, however, is insisting that city code is city code.

“We need to simply abide by our own rules. We need to abide by our own city codes,” said Martha Wilson, the board’s chairwoman.

The issue of the units was first brought up by the board during the Candy Factory renovation’s design phase, in April 2000. Scott Harris, the Museum System’s director at that time, asked for more time to study the matter.

Melinda Herzog was unaware of the matter when she took over as the Museum System’s director in July 2001, in the middle of the renovation project’s construction. It was only early this year when Herzog brought the matter back to the board.

“No new options were brought forward, as we had asked,” Wilson said.

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