Manassas City Council will hold a public hearing later this month on the construction of the city’s new public facility building and parking lot on Grant Avenue.
The $49 million project received planning commission approval earlier this month and will be up for public comment Feb. 24, with city council weighing final approval for the special use permit March 9, according to city staff.
The building will be at the Grant Avenue Shopping Center in the 9600 block. Funding for the project has already been budgeted, but a permit is needed from the city to build up to 60 feet in height. With mechanical equipment, the structure will reach 79 feet at its highest points, according to Manassas Community Development Director Liz Via-Gossman.
“If everything is approved they want to break ground some time this summer,” she said, estimating that construction should take 18 months to two years.
Manassas police have said the new building is necessary to accommodate growth in their ranks. The original 22,000-square-foot building located at 9518 Fairview Ave. was completed in 1989. In 2018, the city police had 120 staff and 95 sworn officers. Police Chief Douglas Keen said the department has grown by more than 30 officers since the current facility opened in 1989.
The growth has made functions as simple as holding roll call meetings and on-the-job training difficult, according to Keen, and a 2013 study found that a new facility would need an additional 15,000 square feet.
Via-Gossman said that because the new building will be used for police and other emergency services, some of its features will be kept under wraps.
“Because it is a public safety building the building plans are not public information,” she said.
But according to the final 2017 study for the project, the building would fold together the police department, the Manassas emergency operations center and the city’s IT department. Attached to the main building hosting those departments will be a storage space for bulk evidence processing, a warehouse for storing special equipment, as well as a secure lot for police vehicles.
Keen has spoken repeatedly about his department’s need for space, saying it could hamper his department’s effectiveness.
“We’ve converted every closet and every room into office space over the years,” he told InsideNoVa in 2018. “We could have almost one case that takes up our entire evidence storage facility, and who would want to lose a case because of losing evidence somehow?”
The city purchased the site, formerly part of the neighboring shopping center, in 2013 with the thought that it could ultimately be used for the police facility, and Via-Gossman said it was a priority to keep the police headquarters in a central location near downtown. Once the department is moved into the new facility (likely some time in 2022), the city has discussed selling the current headquarters or leasing it to Manassas Public Schools.