Manassas Journal Messenger | Manassas schools keeping an eye on development

Predicting the future is a tricky business, but the Manassas School Board is keeping a prognosticating eye on new housing in the city.

Developments currently on the verge of sprouting up in Manassas will account for an estimated 1,916 new residents over the next five years, according to a report sent by city staff to school officials this week.

During a joint meeting with the City Council on Feb. 8, the School Board asked city staff for population growth projections based on developments that are currently in the planning stages.

In response, the city put together a report listing six developments that will account for about 920 new houses, condominiums, town houses and duplexes in Manassas between 2006 and 2010.

The developments could mean about 350 new students in city schools, school officials said.

School Board Chairman Arthur Bushnell said that the population growth could cause the school system to alter its building plans.

“Right now we’re planning additions to Weems and Richard C. Haydon [elementary schools] to relieve overcrowding. Those are the new projects in the next two to three years,” Bushnell said. “The plan for the coming decade doesn’t require a new elementary school, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a new elementary school is needed in the next 10 years.”

A development called Barrington Place, made up of about 157 condominiums, will be the first finished development on the report, with an estimated completion date in the fall of 2006. The last of the developments on the report to be done will be Hastings Marketplace, which is tentatively scheduled for completion in the fall of 2010. Located on Lake Jackson Drive, it will include an estimated 27 single-family homes, 72 town houses and 144 condominiums.

The report only includes developments that have either filed paperwork with city staff or are planning to do so, and it doesn’t mean that the developments on the list are the only ones that will be built in the next five years, community development director Elizabeth Via said.

“Those are just the ones that we know for sure are coming in,” she said.

“It seems to me that there are two levels to look at,” Bushnell said. “The first level is near-term — what impact some of the currently planned developments will have on the schools. The second level is working together with the city to figure out what our future looks like over the next decade and beyond.”

Beyond the next decade, the city has some big ideas for portions of Mathis Avenue and Centerville Road. A plan to redevelop the area into a major residential and retail center over the next 20 years could mean more than 6,900 new residents in that area of the city.

For the schools, the plan could potentially translate into about 1,500 new students, school officials said.

“If Mathis Avenue is going to go forward, maybe we can find a site within that corridor that could be used as a school space,” Bushnell said. “One of our real problems right now is that we don’t have any available land to put schools on.”

The lack of open space in the city hasn’t presented much of an obstacle to developers. In some instances, like the Hastings Marketplace development, older houses will be taken down to make room for new, high-density housing. In contrast, the Mathis Avenue plan would build upwards instead of out, with buildings several stories tall.

“The more new ways they find to use space to either replace existing structures or to build up into the sky, the more potential problems we’re going to have in terms of populations,” Bushnell said. “We’ll have to deal with those issues quickly.”

Bushnell said dealing with the new housing means two things: that officials constantly stay on top of population growth and that both the city and school system expand their planning projects.

The School Board has a long-range facilities planning group that started meeting last month, he said. The group is expected to come forward this spring with recommendations to change building plans for the next decade.

“We’re concerned about the rapid changes that are taking place in terms of demographics and population,” Bushnell said.

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