Fields and forests currently border Prince William Parkway near George Mason University’s Science and Technology campus in Manassas. But two proposals heading to the Prince William County Planning commission next month could eventually transform the area into a bustling community of students, families and commercial development.
County officials are considering two separate development plans intended to support the expansion of GMU’s “sci-tech” campus, where two new academic buildings are planned for completion by 2026 and plans for a future medical school are being hashed out by university and state officials.
In total, the plans could result in the construction of more than 2,600 residential units and mixed-use commercial development on 132 acres of agricultural land bordered by Prince William Parkway, Wellington Road and University Boulevard.
The “University Village at Innovation,” proposed by developer Castlerock Partners LLC, could create up to 1,480 student or age-restricted “active adult” housing units, 150 market value homes, a luxury hotel, restaurants, offices and retail space on a 24-acre parcel bordering the campus along University Boulevard. If approved, construction could begin as early as 2024.
On a separate parcel adjacent to University Village, Stanley Martin Homes is proposing a “Town Center at Innovation Park.” The development proposes a total of 996 apartments, “two-over-two" condominiums and townhouses, as well as mixed-use commercial development and light industrial uses on a 108-acre parcel.
The applicants for both developments are aiming to begin construction as early as 2024.
Both projects are located within the county’s “Innovation Park Small Area Plan,” a long-range development blueprint adopted by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in December 2020 that aims to create an activity center anchored by the university campus.
Tim Kissler, principal for Castlerock Partners LLC, said representatives from Castlerock Partners, Stanley Martin Homes and the university have spent more than two years collaborating on the proposed development. The mix of student housing, market rate housing and commercial development in the area will help university become “a destination place” for students, faculty and staff, Kissler said in an interview with Prince William Times.
“Mason needs us to help make this campus great," Kissler said.
Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, whose district includes Innovation Park, said she supports the planning concepts for the projects, but she added that “both projects need to mitigate serious concerns” including the project’s timeline, school proffers and adequate parking.
“These projects have great potential to become a lasting legacy but I’m not going to let the developers walk away with a sweetheart deal,” Lawson said in an email.
The Prince William County Planning Commission will hold public hearings on both development plans on Wednesday, Aug. 25. After the planning commission weighs in, the proposals will head to the county supervisors for a final vote. Each plan requires the approval of a rezoning and special use permit.
Kissler presented plans for University Village to the planning commission during a July 7 work session. Several commissioners raised concerns about adequate parking for the student housing buildings, which are intended to serve both graduate and post-graduate students.
Kissler said all parking within University Village must be paid or validated by a retail establishment, and students living on campus would pay between $100 and $150 a month for parking spaces in garages attached to the student housing buildings.
Other commissioners questioned whether building age-restricted “active adult” housing for residents over 55 years old was feasible in a college campus environment.
“In my world … there is not a single person over the age of 55 that wants to live near college students. That seems like an odd combination,” said Brentsville Commissioner Patty McKay.
Whether Castlerock decides to build age-restricted units in its development depends in part on how quickly George Mason University expands its campus, Kissler said. If both new university buildings arrive on schedule, he said, “that would induce an influx of students and we would respond to it.”
Until then, “We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold,” Kissler said.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org