The developer behind the Mill at Occoquan, a seven-story, mixed-use project that would bring 80 condominiums, retail and restaurant space along the Occoquan River, is sweetening the deal with an offer to purchase and preserve the historic Rockledge Mansion and build the town’s first paid parking garage.
If the Mill at Occoquan project is approved, developer Kevin Sills now says he will buy the historic Rockledge Mansion as well as property on Ellicott Street to build a 156-space paid parking garage even before he begins construction on the condominium and retail project.
Sills, president of Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investments in Manassas, said he plans on preserving Rockledge, which was built in 1758, but does not yet have specific plans. “It’s in pretty rough shape,” he said.
Rockledge has been used as an events venue for many years now for weddings and such. Lance Houghton, who owns Rockledge, said COVID-19 has shut that down for the past year, but he is temporarily leasing the ballroom, which was an addition to the mansion, to a caterer who is doing very small events.
“I’m in favor of preserving the mansion, and am confident Kevin [Sills] has the means to do so,” Houghton said.
The 5,000-square-foot mansion is located on a 2-acre property on Mill Street. It has been on the market since July for $1.5 million. It was assessed in 2020 for $800,800. It has been owned by the Houghton family since 1986, when it was purchased for $187,800, according to Prince William County property records.
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks register, according to the real estate listing.
Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta said preserving Rockledge is “obviously of paramount importance to us.”
“I know people have floated a variety of ideas over the past few years, including use it as a B&B, a boutique hotel, more regular event space, or as museum space donated to the Occoquan Historical Society,” Porta said in an email. “I'm not going to express a preference for any of those, but I will say I would personally consider any of those uses valuable to the town, provided Rockledge itself is preserved and shored-up.”
Porta said a paid public parking garage would be a “significant benefit to the town.”
“If this garage actually comes to fruition, it would increase our available public parking by more than 40%, and, relative to our on-street parking, by almost 75%,” Porta added.
The garage would be the first parking garage and the first paid parking facility in the town. The town is launching timed parking zones on March 1.
Porta noted that a 2017 parking study revealed the need to add to the town’s parking inventory by adding a parking garage. Porta called the suggestion “the biggest challenge” for the town among the study’s suggested fixes.
“We've formally studied the idea multiple times over the past two decades and have found it simply beyond the town's financial capabilities,” Porta said of a parking garage. “As a result, the only reasonable option is for it to occur as part of the economic redevelopment of existing areas in town.”
If the Mill at Occoquan is not approved, Sills said he would “probably not” buy the properties or build the parking garage.
“We are not in the parking lot business,” he said. “But I fully expect we will be approved.”
Sills attended an Occoquan Town Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16, to let the councilmembers know about his plans.
Vote on Mill at Occoquan slated for March 16
The town council will hold a public hearing on the Mill at Occoquan on Tuesday, March 2, and will vote on it two weeks later, on Tuesday, March 16.
The Mill at Occoquan proposal would bring a seven story building with 80 condominiums with retail space below to a little under an acre of land at the end of Mill Street beside the Mill House Museum.
The building would include space for a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and would feature a top-floor observation deck with glass windows on three sides overlooking the Occoquan River. It would include 3,000 feet of additional restaurant space on the top floor. Both the restaurants and the observation deck would be open to the public. The building would have two stories of underground parking.
The project also includes a 350-foot “riverwalk” along the back of the building, which would be accessible from steps beside the Mill House Museum.
The council will vote on special use permits for the project. The proposal needs exceptions for adding a residential building in a business district; for lacking setbacks from the right-of-way along certain sections of the building; and for the building’s height. The Mill at Occoquan would be 79 feet – more than double the town’s current limit of 35 feet.
The Occoquan Planning Commission has already approved the needed permits with several conditions.
Parking garage to have retail space, too
The plan for the parking garage includes 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level along Ellicott Street. There is a house and a shed on the property now, and it backs up to Rockledge. Sills will need a bit of the Rockledge property to build the parking garage.
Sills said the parking garage will be needed for the construction workers who will build the Mill at Occoquan.
“We need a place to stage our construction workers. We need for them to have a reliable place to park,” Sills said. “We are not going to endanger the streets in town. We are not going to jam up their parking.”
Since the Ellicott Street property is zoned commercial, Sills wouldn’t need any special use permits from the town for the parking garage or its retail space.
“It’s by-right zoned for that use and the person is not asking for any exceptions to the rules,” Porta said.
Sills said he believes residents and visitors will be pleased with the Mill at Occoquan.
“We are building a first-class building,” he said. “I think people will be very happy with it.”
Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify how the proposed parking garage would boost available parking in Occoquan.
Reach Aileen Streng at email@example.com