New Manassas Park City Hall, Parking Facility Proposed

Local engineering firm aspires to build new city hall and parking garage that it says will bring jobs and business to Manassas Park.

The City of Manassas Park received an unsolicited proposal from a Manassas engineering company to build a new city hall and parking garage for as much as $24 million, according to city documents.

EMSI Engineering Inc. of Manassas hand-delivered the seven-page document and proposal cover letter to city officials on Nov. 21. The company’s proposal states that the parking garage would accompany the new city hall, costing about $10 million to $12 million for each structure, according to the EMSI proposal. Those figures are based on similar projects completed by the company.  

The construction would take between 15 and 18 months, which means the structure could be completed by the summer of 2014, if the permitting process begins in January, according to the proposal. The proposed 60,000-square-foot city hall would be constructed on city-owned land on Park Center Court, adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Railroad line.  Another option is for EPI Partners—the limited licensing corporation created by EMSI for the project—to “swap” land the company already owns in the same area for the city’s land.

EPI Partners LLC will retain an option to lease back from the city 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of the new facility for EMSI Engineering’s new headquarters. EMSI Engineering Inc. partner Talal Hassan said a key part in the financing of the project would be for his company to relocate to Manassas Park.

Hassan said he is aware of Manassas Park’s strained financial situation, but if the company is located in Manassas Park, it would bring tax dollars and more than 100 jobs to the city. Manassas Park officials have said on several occasions that more businesses are badly needed in the city and are key in improving the city’s finances. People would pay to use the parking garage, which would help pay back the costs of building the facilities, Hassan said.

EMSI Engineering partners spent some six months coming up with the proposal, Hassan said. One of the partners, who he declined to identify, is highly vested in Manassas Park and has been doing business in the area for more than 25 years, Hassan added. About two years ago, the company approached the city about building a library in Manassas Park, but nothing ever came of it, Hassan said.

City officials did respond to that proposal, but Hassan said it couldn’t be done at that time, he added.

As of Tuesday, the company hadn’t heard anything from city officials about its latest proposal, Hassan said.

Manassas Park City Manager Jim Zumwalt said city council will be adopting the revised guidelines for handling Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure proposals and Public-Private Transportation Projects at Tuesday's meeting. The guidelines are relevant to the unsolicited proposal because they are the rules under which it will be considered, Zumwalt said. He doesn't anticipate any discussion of the proposal during that meeting, he added.

It is not clear when the Manassas Park City Council will meet to discuss the proposal. The EMSI proposal and proposal letter is available online at the City of Manassas Park’s website.

The city is accepting competing unsolicited proposals for simultaneous consideration. Proposals should be submitted to: City Manager’s Office, City of Manassas Park, One Park Center Court, Manassas Park, VA 20111. Proposals should comply with the City of Manassas Park Combined Guidelines for Public-Private Education Facilities (PPEA) and Infrastructure and Public-Private Transportation (PPTA).  The guidelines are available on the city's website. Qualifying proposals should address the development of properties in the vicinity of the VRE Commuter Rail Station in Manassas Park.  

For further information contact the City of Manassas Park 703-335-8813.

Competing proposals will be accepted until Jan. 9.

mp November 30, 2011 at 12:02 PM
This story smells fishy to me, and if I follow the smell it would lead to the Mayor (I am clueless). Who is going to pay for this new building which will get built? The residents are!!!! The Mayor is going throwing MP residents right under the bus again. If they want a new place go rent the building by VRE and kick everyone out. Oh wait that cost money too. The city is broke and someone shows up to give a bid. Hey Brian and the new member if you guys even think of voting for the new building. I will make sure you have one term only.
Avery Sun November 30, 2011 at 04:07 PM
The documents are not easy to understand. Why cant we know how the financing will be done on this thing?
Jeri Moriarty November 30, 2011 at 04:25 PM
If they want more space, move into the empty retail at City Center.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Hey there, MP Interesting viewpoints. I think the project sounds good in theory— it's right in line with what many city officials want to do, which is attract businesses to relocate to Manassas Park. It also seems to kill two birds (or three) with one stone: A new city hall, new headquarters for EMSI and tax revenue for the city. The plan for recouping the costs of the project sound good, but on the other hand, I wonder who is going to finance this project while it's being built? I can't wait to see how this all turns out. Even if this project doesn't materialize, I'm glad to see that people are putting their heads together and truly thinking of good ways to improve the city.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Good point Avery, I wonder the same thing. I need to ask Mr. Hassan about that later.
Dan Telvock November 30, 2011 at 05:33 PM
How would a new city hall and parking garage increase commercial business in Manassas Park?
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Dan, the engineering firm would relocate here; this means business tax dollars for MP which is heavily reliant on property taxes— the highest in the Commonwealth, I believe. I surmise EMSI's move will spur other businesses to do the same, especially with new business tax-incentive district our lawmakers are considering for the area around City Center and city hall.
Avery Sun November 30, 2011 at 06:30 PM
What if EMSI has financial problems are decides to back out of the deal, or if they go chapter 13. And we still don't know where or how the money will be gotten
Avery Sun November 30, 2011 at 06:32 PM
I agree with Jeri about them moving into city center A parking garage is nice but we sure don't need it now because there aren't any businesses in city center, and if their people who cant find a parking place in the vre lot and want to park, well that would only be a dozen or so. thats not enough to run a pay garage, is it?
Avery Sun November 30, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Jamie, I understand your point and we sure do need more business income, but we were told the same thing when city center opened, and it is just sitting there empty.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Good point Avery about the parking garage not being needed at this time. But then again, EMSI could be thinking ahead to a time when the area around City Center and the VRE would be a vibrant business district. If that happens, they would already have a parking structure in place and would be making money. That's just my guess.
Jason November 30, 2011 at 07:56 PM
The parking garage is needed and should be cost-shared with the VRE/PRTC. The city center development was scaled down due to the recession. It needs a more critical mass and an anchor tenant...the link is an initial presentation for the city center http://www.cityofmanassaspark.us/public_documents/ManassasParkVA_WebDocs/Presentations/ParkCenterNov1505.pdf
Dan Telvock November 30, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Jason VRE doesn't have the money, especially considering the development of a track to extend service into Spotsylvania COunty. It won't fly, but it's a good idea. As for City Center, I did some research on that project and MP officials bent over backwards to move that project fast and it was all promised that there would be retail there and there isn't anything. I would like to know how much the lease is for one of those buildings and how much it has been dropped to fit the economic circumstances. Maybe the leases are just too expensive and they won't budge on the leases
Bob Jordan November 30, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I don't see how bringing EMSI into Manassas Park will increase the tax base since they are a company will basically no assets to tax! It seems this company already has land in MP but they don't have the assets to build on it so they are trying to get the city to build for them and they just rent WHICH doesn't create any taxes on rent. If they want space there is plenty of it across the street. AND, how much will they charge people to park in this lot? If it's $2 a day, that's going to take 5 million cars to pay for it. Doesn't seem like it will be that cost efficient.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 08:44 PM
Hi Dan, From what I understand MP officials didn't bend over backward to move the plan along. Remember what the city clerk to council explained to us? She said that Manassas Park is small and doesn't exactly have a big, long line of businesses waiting to get approval to build in MP. Because the city is small, projects automatically move through the system a little faster. But to your point, I think everybody was excited about City Center and that they did have a joint planning commission/city council meeting which shorten the approval process by what— a single week or a single day out of the project-depending on when the bodies would normally meet separately. But having said that, they had a joint meeting in December for another project, so doing that isn't exactly that special.
Jason November 30, 2011 at 08:55 PM
They need to add a Trader Joe's type establishment to be included with this proposal. This will be difficult since there is a Super Walmart, Shoppers, Harris Teeter, Giant, and Bloom within 2 miles of the City Center.
taxed out November 30, 2011 at 08:59 PM
If VRE parking is free, why would people pay to park in a garage? If it takes 10 years to fill the garage, who pays the million dollars of deficit each year until that happens? Of course more parking is a good idea, so is private tutoring for every student. But good ideas are a dime a dozen, funding is what matters. If the garage and new city hall cost $24 million, would the property taxes rise to $2.85 per hundred to cover this expense?
taxed out November 30, 2011 at 09:04 PM
If Manassas Park got 4% bonds to pay for another city hall and garage at $24 million, the interest alone would be nearly a million dollars a year. If there are 2,000 homes in the town, we would only have to pay $240 more in property taxes every year so our city officials can have nicer offices. The ones they have right now seem just fine.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 09:05 PM
You know, a major retailer like Trader Joe's is just about the only thing that would work in City Center. Here's why: the retail spaces in City Center are just skeletons—no plumbing, no electrical wiring—nothing. So a business would have to have the money to go in and complete the place and make it ready. This is a cost most small businesses can't handle. I recently suggested to one of our council members that he should concentrate on attracting major retailers to City Center, as they are probably the one ones that can afford to be there. (My comment is a little off the subject being that you were talking about the proposed project :P)
Jason November 30, 2011 at 10:20 PM
The city needs to wait a few years until the community center investment is stabilized. They could always sell the land the city hall is on and relocate the offices to the community center. A movie theater would be a good choice to replace the the city hall's current location.
taxed out November 30, 2011 at 10:30 PM
A movie theater would be great if the buying public wanted to be entertained in manassas park. But there is high quality shopping, dining and movies just 10 minutes away and theaters aren't interested in sitting empty. Besides, movie theaters don't pay any rent. Shopping malls pay theaters to bring in customers to buy so the other 100 stores can pay rent.
Jason November 30, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Fairfax Corner turned out ok even though there was a mall and movie theater across the interstate. Restaurants in Fairfax and Centreville have 1 hour waits on Friday and Saturday nights. There is demand for though places in Manassas Park.
Kris Day December 01, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Well, this is a very interesting development and I trust our governing council will study it and wisely determine if this is in the city's best interest. It does make sense to me that an engineering firm would be interested in building a new city hall, to include space for their headquarters here, with a tax incentive and possible first dibs on restructuring/reengineering the warehouse area (Conner Center?) as a lucrative trade-off. As for parking... I would not go with meter or pay parking. One of the nicest things about our area and Manassas in general is that parking is free! It's just that much more incentive for me to do my shopping locally and in Old Town when I know I can park in a covered parking garage or curbside to do my shopping. Excited to see what may come of this proposal!
Dan Telvock December 01, 2011 at 05:25 AM
The documents and minutes show that the city and the developer were meeting daily to negotiate the contract. The city allowed for a CDA, which wasn't the original plan, but it allowed the project to move forward instead of building it piece by piece. Both helped move this project along much faster and those are some of the things I was thinking about when I made the comment. The board also met with the Planning Commission every three months to provide updates on the project to keep the process moving. Typically, a project will sit with the Planning Commission until it takes a vote and then it would go to the board of supervisors or governing body. These joint meetings saved many months. But the biggest time saver was agreeing to create a CDA because if the city didn't, this project may have never been built. An interesting point with the contract is that it says "Clark will use its good-faith efforts to market the space designated as flex-retail residential for retail uses only. If Clark is unable to lease the flex space at market rates then Clark may convert and lease space for residential uses." That may have already happened. In the Sept. 19, 2006 minutes the city attorney said that the original plan was that the developer would build one of two restaurant sites and "they are not only required to have a lease signed but also have substantially complete construction on one of the preferred restaurants which includes fixtures."
mp December 01, 2011 at 11:43 AM
You guys are killing me. No business wants to move to MP. We are land locked. We can’t make payroll so we borrow money. The city is losing money with the community center and it will never turn a profit. There are about 2000 residents as said before not everyone has paid their taxes. How do I know that? I look at the books every day. We have only mom & pop stores that is it. Manassas drive is a commuter route and no business wants to be in a commuter route. Why do you think no business wants to be in the city center? The rent is high per square foot. I can easily get better customer follow on Liberia or on 234. MP has an office building that is not full can anyone answer that? Mayor (clueless) is going to ram this down our throats and then leave office next year. So he does not have to complain about it. If you want go to 189 Manassas Drive and complain to the mayor and tell him to stop this build.
taxed out December 01, 2011 at 02:15 PM
mp, You're right, no business wants to move to MP because high taxes must pay for the police station, firehouse, gym and now the city hall and garage. Cushy city employees, broke homeowners. Stores won't locate to city center because there is insufficient parking for customers. The engineer paid by the developer to design horrible parking at city center is the same guy paid by taxpayers to review his plan and inspected his work. A public employee getting money from both sides of the fence to ensure that city center could't attract stores. But at least he and the developer made out like bandits. Guess who approved 8' wide parking spaces -- the city engineer, zoning, planning, plan review, inspection, public works, mayor Jones and the city council. Every other store in America (except city center) has 9' to 10' wide parking spaces, lets all go buy mini Coopers. Retailers are afraid to open a store without nice parking. Just imagine the developer's engineer being the same guy as the taxpayers engineer. Good thing there aren't any conflicts of interest or insider transactions going on. Good thing we homeowners have extra money to pay for the tax deficit. But at least in these dark times the city engineer is smiling.
taxed out December 01, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Who is going to pay a million dollars per year of loan interest for the 20 years until city center becomes vibrant? Can we homowners afford to pay for an empty building?


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