Field Trip Touts Manassas

More than a dozen Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials will take a field trip to Manassas today, invited by the city in the hope of generating a buzz about Manassas's business opportunities.

"We do this every year, mainly as an awareness campaign to remind them all of the things that Manassas has to offer," said Debi Sandlin, the city's economic development manager.

Before the yearly bus tours were launched three years ago, she said, Manassas wasn't on the radar of state officials.

In the past two years -- after state officials took tours of Manassas Regional Airport, Gateway business park and local businesses -- Manassas has found itself on the short list of some businesses considering expansion or relocation, Sandlin said.

"We've had some very hot prospects," she said.

The tour costs the city about $700. "It's a very inexpensive marketing tool," Sandlin said.

In a three-hour tour of the city, state officials will visit Gateway, the airport and historic Old Town. They'll also hear a presentation about redevelopment plans for Mathis Avenue, a street now populated by auto dealerships, fast-food restaurants and thrift shops that Manassas hopes to make over with multistory office buildings, apartments and pedestrian-friendly paths.

West-End Tour

Nearly 200 real estate agents, developers and local officials hopped on a virtual bus last week when they took a slide-show tour of 68 real estate projects.

Bill Fairchild, president of R.W. Murray Co., a Prince William County general contractor, served as the tour guide, telling audience members about business parks, shopping centers and hospitals underway in Gainesville, Manassas, Innovation@Prince William, Woodforest and Dumfries.

One of the projects announced at the event, at the Prince William County Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, was a plan by Prince William Health System to build Haymarket's first outpatient health care center.

The health center reflects the growing population and affluence of the western end of the county, which was once a rural area, said Jay Norman, president of Norman Realty of Manassas, one of the tour's sponsors.

The 60,000- to 100,000-square-foot center will provide urgent care, family medicine, radiology and physical therapy, among other services. It is intended primarily for Haymarket and Gainesville.

From Landfill to Home

Vienna-based KSI Services Inc. plans to convert a former landfill and industrial area along the Potomac River near Dumfries into a retirement community and a marina.

"They used to put their industrial uses and waste on waterfront," said Richard Hausler, KSI president. "Now, of course in this era, people are discovering life along the waterfront."

The redevelopment is an added phase in the nearly 1,800-acre, $2 billion Harbor Station waterfront community that KSI is planning.

In 2001, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors rezoned the land to permit construction of houses, commercial properties, a golf course and a town center despite the concerns of environmentalists, who said the development would cause erosion and destroy wildlife. The project was originally developed by Legend Properties Inc., which sold it to KSI.

KSI officials recently amended the plans, adding the retirement community, consolidating office spaces into a single campus and preserving the Civil War-era Cockpit Point battery, which was used by the Confederate Army to block the Potomac River from union ships.

KSI altered its plans for the southern portion of Harbor Station after acquiring 235 acres from about 20 landowners. The company decided to consolidate the office space in a 200-acre campus to appeal to defense contractors and others interested in locating near Quantico.

Spec Space at Innovation

Buchanan Properties LLC of Gaithersburg recently broke ground on the first speculative office space in Innovation@Prince William.

Gilbane Properties Inc. of Providence, R.I., had planned to build speculative space in the park, but that plan was dropped after the tech bubble burst in 2001.

Construction of the three single-story buildings should be complete by the first quarter of 2006. Two of the buildings will be 46,300 square feet each; the third will have 32,900 square feet.

Morgan Gick McBeath & Associates PC of Falls Church designed the buildings. Hubert Construction LLC of Gaithersburg is the general contractor, and Norman Realty of Manassas is leasing the buildings.

-- JENALIA MORENO

E-mail news about Prince William County business to morenoj@washpost.com.