While Occoquan’ historic charm remains, the town’ overall appearance has certainly changed.
Angled parking has replaced the traditional parallel parking along the town’ business district.
Instead of two-way streets, there is a new one-way traffic pattern.
Basic cement sidewalks have given way to old-fashioned brick sidewalks, adorned by gas lampposts near the end of Mill Street near the Occoquan Museum.
“, I think this is everything the merchants have been asking us to do for the last four years,” said Occoquan Town Councilman Leo Smith, who was largely involved in the parking and one-way street issues. ” is open for business.”
LaVerne Carson, owner of the Golden Goose in town and president of the Business Guild of Occoquan, was also enthusiastic.
” customers like it. We like it. The town is looking good,” Carson said.
There are more changes planned for the near future.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will break ground Wednesday morning for the new six-lane, $24.6 million Va. 123 bridge near the site of the existing span.
Several projects to improve and renovate the historic riverside town that got under way this summer have been completed.
The Prince William Service Authority began in June to replace the old water pipes throughout the town. The job was done in September, one month ahead of schedule.
Carson praised the service authority for its work.
” can’ think of any ways that they could have done it better,” she said.
The authority worked with the town and Virginia Department of Transportation officials to coordinate the project.
As the water pipe project got moving, so did the $250,000 Mill Street Improvement Project.
The project included constructing a turnaround area at the end of Mill Street near the Fairfax County Water Authority property, curb improvements, additional parking spaces and gas street lights along the west side of Mill Street to Ellicott Street. The project also extended the brick sidewalks farther down the street toward the turnaround.
Crews began to pave the circle Monday.
“‘ the last big thing,” said Win Frank, town treasurer and project manager for the Mill Street project.
Minor work, such as putting up a guard rail around the circle and a few other things, will complete the project, Frank said.
Another very visible town improvement got under way earlier this month once the pipe work was completed and the town’ streets were repaved.
The area is bordered by Washington, Mill, Ellicott and Commerce streets. Union Street divides the two blocks. It also has been converted into a one-way street.
Franks said although the new pattern may have taken a little bit of time getting used to, visitors and residents alike have quickly adjusted.
” like it just fine. It provides more parking and its easier for cars to park,” Carson said.
Making the streets one-way frees up enough space to allow for angled parking, instead of the parallel parking that had existed through much of the town.
” think the town looks great,” said John Brown, owner of Brown’ Woodstuff. ” angular parking gives the look of towns of the past.”
Smith said it was believed that before the change, the town had 114 parallel spaces. However, since the spaces were not lined, drivers tended to take up more space along the curb that they should.
After counting parked cars on three separate summer weekends, Smith estimated that there were really only about 95 spaces.
With the new angled parking, there are 145 parking spaces throughout the business district, Smith said.
At least seven more spaces will be created at the end of Mill Street when the turnaround is completed and an additional 17 to 18 spaces will be available when Dawson’ General Store is completed along Commerce Street.
Parking is a constant concern to town merchants. A busy weekend often found visitors and customers driving around and around looking for a empty spot.
In recent years, however, as the start date for the Va. 123 bridge project grew closer, concerns heightened.
VDOT owns the land under the existing bridge and has allowed it to be used for public parking. However, during the two to three years it will take to construct a new bridge, VDOT will need to use the land.
Smith said he felt that with the angular parking as well as the other added spaces, there should be enough room for everyone to park.
Occoquan Mayor Patricia M. Conway agreed.
” are trying to do what we can to keep our merchants happy,” Conway said.
Town merchants are planning a ” Warming Day” on Nov. 1, inviting visitors to come and see the new look of Historic Occoquan, Brown said.
Refreshments and specials will be found at businesses throughout the town.