Old Town buildings may stay

The Manassas City Council kept the possibility open Monday night that a pair of buildings in the city’s downtown might yet remain.

The council voted 6-0 to give developer Harold Logan time to look into methods and tax credits available for reuse of two Old Town homes set on a triangle of land where Centreville Road merges into Church Street. A final vote on the matter will now take place June 16.

Logan has been wanting purchase the property from Vernon Enger and tear down the houses, located at 9000 Church St. and 9315 Center St., to build a small, brick office building. But Manassas’ Architectural Review Board ruled in January that the buildings were significant enough to stay on the real estate market for one year. Since then, the council, split down the middle on the matter, has held off on a decision.

At the Monday night meeting, John Foote, Logan’s lawyer, said his client wasn’t sure whether reuse of the buildings would work, but was still willing to go over the possibilities.

“I never want to foreclose any avenue that might keep me from knowing something I don’t know,” Foote said.

Elizabeth Via, Manassas’ community development director, brought news to the council that the gray Church Street house located on the triangle, built in the 1920s, is so structurally damaged that it would have to be rebuilt from the foundation up. But use of the white Center Street house, built in the late 1800s, was possible, she said.

The city has the Center Street house listed as a historic structure because it was built by a Ben Florence in the late 1800s. But Florence’s significance had been a mystery for city officials until Monday night, when Councilman Ulysses X. White produced library research showing that Florence was a Confederate veteran who ran a confectionery store in Manassas until his death in 1890. Florence is buried in the Manassas Cemetery.

White said the city needs to hold the line on saving historic buildings, such as Florence’s.