City looks at revitalizing business districts

It’s an area of Manassas marked by car dealerships, fast food joints and a shopping center built in the 1960s.

But if the city’s long-range planning is any indication, the Centreville Road and Mathis Avenue area may one day see the same type of major revitalization seen to the south in Old Town.

“There’s a lot of interest in seeing development along Centreville Road and Mathis Avenue,” said City Manager Lawrence Hughes.

Already, Mathis Avenue is sporting a new look. The street is repaved, utility lines are buried and trees have been planted, all part of a $3.2 million city project finished in November.

The Manassas Museum System is also making plans for a restoration of the historic Liberia plantation house off Mathis. Work may begin as soon as the spring, said Melinda Herzog, the museum system’s director.

In the background is a draft version of a revised city comprehensive plan, a long-range planning document, that lists the area as one of the places where the city might want to concentrate its redevelopment efforts in the future.

“Because of the age of that area and because it’s one of the entrance ways to the city, it’s one of the places the city should look at for redevelopment,” said local attorney Mike Vanderpool, who sat on the citizens committee that wrote the plan.

Other places mentioned in the document include the area around Prince William Hospital and the southern approach to Manassas along Dumfries Road and Grant Avenue.

In late February, the City Council will hold public hearings on the proposed comprehensive plan, with a vote on the document likely in March. If the plan is passed, a special committee will begin looking at more detailed sector plans for areas of the city the document has targeted.

The city is in the most preliminary of stages in discussing what might be done to encourage development on Centreville Road and Mathis Avenue, said Yvonne Conatser, the city’s senior planner.

“It depends on the sector plan and what we want to do,” she said.

Among possibilities is the idea of creating more of the block after block of retail seen in the central areas of other Northern Virginia cities, such as Alexandria and Fredericksburg, said Debi Sandlin, economic development manager for the city.

“One of the visions of the city has been the extension of Old Town toward the Mathis Avenue corridor, as well as the courthouse,” she said.

Much of what happens will actually be determined by the property and business owners in the area, said Steve Nelson, head of the Manassas Business Council, who saw changes to zoning regulations and a package of incentives helping to encourage development.

“The city is 90 percent built out,” he said. “So redevelopment is going to be big in coming years.”

Councilman J. Stephen Randolph believes the Centreville Road and Mathis Avenue area will be among the places where such activity will take place.

“It certainly is one of the next major programs of the city to help revitalize that business district,” he said.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.

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