Brentsville District Supervisor for Prince William County Wally Covington talks about the planning and development of Town Center @ Innovtion Park near George Mason University's Prince William County Campus and technology park.
Editor: A plan was originally put together in 2005 but was put on hold
because of the recession. Why dust off the plans now?
Supervisor Covington's Office: As the economy recovers and new market opportunities emerge, it is imperative that the County take proactive steps to ensure we remain well- positioned in the market place. One such step was the creation of an Economic Development Task Force composed of industry, academic and government experts to consider strategies to enhance the economic
vitality of the County. The Task Force, as one of its 8 recommendations, listed the development of the Town Center @ Innovation as a major economic development objective.
It is also important to note that the Innovation Town Center is a
longer-term development concept that is likely to take several years to
fully implement depending on market demand for the mix of uses. Planning
for a project like this can also take some time. The Town Center was
originally conceived and included in the Innovation Sector Plan in 2005.
During the 2008 to 2009 time frame, the County participated in different
initiatives to determine whether the project should be pursued,
including a conceptual redesign of the project, an analysis of potential
development scenarios, and a market study. With the Hylton Performing
Arts Center now open and serving as a cultural anchor to the Town
Center, the County believes the time is right to move forward in
creating the opportunity for a high quality mixed use development that
will further enhance Innovation as a leading life science and technology
park. Ultimate timing of the project will depend on economic conditions
and market demand.
Editor: A citizen posed the question, do we really need more storefronts when
there are already so many vacant ones in Manassas?
Supervisor Covington's Office: Ultimately, the market will determine the role and extent of retail in the development of the Town Center. Market study research has indicated a pent-up demand for convenience retail and restaurants in the vicinity of the Innovation campus. Proximity of retail to the University and the Innovation Business Park will strengthen Innovation's ability to attract
targeted businesses with employees that desire access to retail, recreation, and cultural attractions.
Editor: What type of businesses do you see going into the town center? Some people fear the town center will have all the same business offerings as all the other town centers.
Supervisor Covington's Office: Again, the market will be a major factor in determining the mix of uses and type of retail to be located in the Town Center. All of the scenarios set forth in the most recent market study anticipate a mix of
restaurant, entertainment, and convenience uses.
Editor: Do the struggling already-in-place businesses really need more
competition? Couldn't this hurt local businesses?
Supervisor Covington's Office: Public and private investment at the Innovation Business Park stands to benefit the entire Prince William/Manassas area. The underlying economic development basis for the Town Center is that it better positions Innovation and George Mason to compete nationally and
internationally for new businesses, higher paying jobs, and research
dollars, all of which stand to benefit the region as a whole.
Editor: What plan (of the three) do you propose? And why?
Supervisor Covington's Office: The Planning staff has been asked to develop a recommendation as to which scenario makes the most sense for inclusion in the Sector Plan. I will be in a position to weigh the different scenarios after the staff
analysis and recommendation have been presented to me and the rest of
the Board. Related to this question, there is an update to the market
study currently underway that may affect these scenarios; the results of
the market study will be factored into the staff analysis and recommendation.
Editor: Developers have gone bankrupt or out of business and walked away, leaving residents waiting for a 'town center' they were promised. What can be done to make sure this doens't happen at Innovation Park?
Supervisor Covington's Office: In connection with the update to the market analysis, the County will be interviewing national mixed use developers in an effort to make sure that the conceptual plan is well grounded. This will provide the Planning Commission and the Board with the best current options to
consider the Town Center.
Even after approval of the Sector Plan amendment, there will be
additional zoning approvals needed from the Board to construct the Town
Center project. The phasing of uses is always a consideration in
evaluating zoning proposals for mixed use development projects. This
evaluation will occur with the County's review of specific development
proposals to implement the Sector Plan.