A new parking lot will be built in the center of Manassas Park.
The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission on Thursday, April 7, approved a plan to build a structured parking lot with three levels above ground and one below ground.
Virginia Railway Express will build the Park Center Court garage next to City Hall on two and a half acres of land that was once owned by the city and is now owned by its Economic Development Authority. VRE will design a garage with 540 above-ground parking spaces for VRE users and 196 underground parking spaces for city visitors.
The garage will be located across the tracks from the Manassas Park station. VRE will lease the land, valued at $2.2 million, for $1 per year for the life of the transit agency.
Originally, VRE had planned to build the garage on land across the tracks from the Manassas Park VRE station off of Manassas Drive. In 2019, the city convinced the transit agency to change the location of the future garage to also serve as a parking lot for its new City Center retail development.
Pre-pandemic ERV ridership forecasts estimated that boardings at Manassas Park station would continue to increase. Passenger counts made before the pandemic show 670 morning boardings at the station. By 2040, the number of morning boardings could reach 1,300, according to pre-pandemic figures.
However, VRE has been struggling to find its riders since the regular restaurant service nearly a year ago. In February 2022, Virginia’s commuter rail system alone drew about 53,000 riders from nearly 300,000 three years ago.
According to a report by VRE CEO Rich Dalton at Manassas Park station in February 2022, less than 50 of the existing 600 parking spaces were in use.
Manassas Park Station opened in 1992 with 300 parking spaces. The size of the car park doubled in 2001, and commuters still struggled to find a hole at the station before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the city is moving forward with its plan to transform the area around City Hall into a new downtown destination. In January, the city’s board of directors sold about three acres of city-owned land to the company for $100 to Cafe Cinema. This Hampton Roads-based theater chain serves food and drink similarly to Alamo Cinema and Drafthouse in Woodbridge.
As part of the public-private agreement, the current Manassas Park City Hall will be demolished to make way for the new 49,000-square-foot building that will sit on the corner of Manassas Drive and Park Center Court, the heart of the city’s downtown project. A town hall and a library will also be built opposite the new cinema.
The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation and Northern Virginia Transportation Commissions are the parent agencies of VRE.