Old Town Manassas has a new look these days.
Part of that look is thanks to one Main Street firm, Robert B. Loveless Architects.
During his 14 years in Manassas as an architect, Rob Loveless, owner of the firm, has renovated three buildings in the Old Town revitalization effort, has completed 11 projects for the city of Manassas and has designed numerous projects in Prince William County.
Not bad for a firm of three architects.
Loveless wanted to work in the area since he was a young intern at a small company in McLean in the early 1970s. Later, he became an architect with Gregory Construction in Manassas. While working there, Loveless and a friend started their own firm at Main and Church streets called Associated Architects.
In its first big break, Associated Architects was selected to do an addition for the Manassas City Hall annex. "We suggested that [the city] study the option of tearing down the annex and build a new city hall," Loveless explained. Not only did city officials consider it, but they also hired Loveless's firm to design the City Hall. "It was our first major project."
Loveless left Gregory Construction to focus solely on his own company and the City Hall project. In 1984, he and partner Warren McNamee formed McNamee and Loveless Architects.
With a steady influx of projects, the company survived mostly working on projects in Manassas and Prince William County. Loveless, a quiet man, competes with the large firms that dot the street corners in the District and Fairfax, but he takes it in stride.
"They get the big jobs; we get what's available," he laughed.
Loveless keeps busy with his firm of three architects, two of whom -- Harvey H. Leibman and Dan Bellotte -- were just officially appointed full-time associates.
The revitalization of Old Town in the last several years has been Loveless's showcase. By renovating the Opera House on Center Street -- with upscale apartments above the Opera Gourmet -- designing the First Virginia Bank and the Whimsical Gallery, Loveless Architects has made a mark on the Old Town map.
It's an Old Town that Loveless would love, whether he helped with the renovation or not. "I liked Manassas so much that as soon as I worked for Gregory and started a family, I decided we'd move from Vienna," he said. His three children, ages 22, 20 and 16 ("Two boys and `Precious' ") were raised here.
Loveless Architects is antsy to get started on its latest revitalization effort: renovating the City Square in Old Town. The area of the farmer's market soon will be redesigned to have a Dickensian-style ice skating rink, pavilion and walkway.
"I'd like to have people skating there by next year," Loveless said. Although city officials still haven't asked for definite plans, the firm already has finished some sketches. "We get so excited," Loveless explained. Students with the design studio from the Northern Virginia Community College built the original model for the City Square and designed the walkway.
The actual concept of the proposed project originated with Historic Manassas Inc. and Loy Harris, former president of the company and owner of Harris Insurance. Harris and Loveless, who serves as chairman of Historic Manassas's design committee, have collaborated on several projects.
Loveless, like many others, attributes much of the revitalization of Old Town Manassas to Harris. "There were 30 vacancies in the last three or four years. He's just sort of single-handedly done this by being president of HMI."
Loveless said his firm is constantly busy, and unlike so many small businesses, the only type of growth he noticed over the years is an important one -- the quality of projects he is given. "There's enough work out here that if we can keep D.C. and Fairfax firms out, then we're fine," he said of the competition.
And how does he presume to do that? "Just get up every morning and try to do as best as you can."
CAPTION: Rob Loveless's firm has drawn preliminary sketches for a proposed City Square project, including a pavilion and ice skating rink. Other designs will be discussed this summer. Loveless, right, and his team of two architects have contributed significantly to the revitalization of Old Town Manassas.