In search of a buyer, Manassas is looking to clean up a downtown property that has been just down the street from city hall for more than 70 years and is partly owned by the city’s former mayor.
The city’s economic development authority is asking for $50,000 from the Virginia Resources Authority to redevelop the contaminated Manassas Ice & Fuel Co. property on Center Street in hopes of eventually building something else on the lot.
Economic Development Director Patrick Small told InsideNoVa that he hopes to have the city’s grant application submitted later this week, and that the funds would be matched by MIFCO.
Owned by a group led by former mayor Hal Parrish, the site was identified in the new comprehensive plan that the city adopted last year as an “opportunity area.” Small said the city and Parrish’s group agreed that the heavy commercial use was no longer a good fit for the downtown location.
Two main contaminants need clean-up at the site, where the MIFCO building has sat since 1950. Small said he couldn’t say what they were other than “petroleum products.” The fueling station at the site is no longer in use, but MIFCO still has its offices there. The site’s next use will ultimately dictate how thorough the clean-up needs to be.
“We’re going to do a market analysis of the property for some potential uses, which is going to ultimately determine what the development community wants to do with the property, and what the nature of the clean-up is going to look like,” Small said. “The owner has identified the contaminants that are on the site, but does not have a remediation plan, because it doesn’t know what the property is going to be.”
Small said the city is basically looking to aid in the redevelopment process, which it would do for any business in the city, particularly those on lots whose current uses are out of step with the city’s land-use goals. Ultimately, the property would have to be rezoned.
The land use chapter of the comprehensive plan says the city would be better served with a mixed-use development or parking on the lot.
“Heavy commercial … uses should be relocated to more appropriate character areas to allow for the development of vertical mixed-use and structured public parking,” the land use chapter reads. “This parking can also be used to partner with private developers to enhance the critical mass of residential and office uses in downtown without sacrificing land for surface parking.”
The state grant, part of the authority’s Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund, would be used to do the site study, not the actual decontamination.
“To attract a developer, obviously the site needs to be cleaned up or have a plan to be cleaned up. … So the city partners with the owners to come up with a variety of uses that would be consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. And then if the developer comes in and says ‘I want to do one of those uses,’ you’re sort of ahead of the game because you’ve already gone through somewhat of a substantial vetting process of the uses,” Small said.
Parrish couldn’t be reached for comment. The lot, at 9009 Center St., was valued this year at $558,300. The company was first run by Parrish’s father, long-time Manassas mayor and Del. Hal Parrish Sr., although the family sold most of the oil business in the early 2000s. Still, it retained the real estate, as well as the ice and frozen foods business, according to an article in the Washington Post.
In 1989, the company was cited by the Virginia Water Control Board for petroleum seeping from the property and ultimately ending up in the Occoquan River.
Now the last remnants of the company could be leaving Manassas, shortly after the Parrish family left city politics. Last year, Parrish declined to run for a fourth mayoral term, leaving the city without a Parrish representing it at the local or state level for the first time since the 1950s.