Manassas Park embraces its youth, diversity and community spirit

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Donald Shuemaker has lived in Manassas Park, Va., more than 40 years and worked at its post office for more than 17 years. Thanks to his time there, the former city council member has gotten to know its residents and knows when new faces come into the community.

“I just live three-quarters of a mile from my office,” he said. “So I can usually bike into the office. That’s really huge. I live an urban lifestyle in a suburban place.”

Manassas Park, about 30 miles southwest of Washington and adjacent to the city of Manassas, began as a Prince William County subdivision. It incorporated as a town in 1957 and as a city in 1975, making it the youngest city in the commonwealth. More than 17,000 residents live within its three square miles, according to the 2020 Census. Its diverse population — 39.7 percent Hispanic, 33.1 percent White, 15.3 percent Black and 11.1 percent Asian — is hailed by city officials and residents alike.

“This is a wonderful city to live in,” Mayor Jeanette Rishell said. “We have great diversity, which is our strength.”

Rishell, who has lived in Manassas Park since 1994 and was elected mayor in 2016, said the tightknit nature of the city has allowed residents to become involved in the community through civic service and volunteering.

“Manassas Park is small enough that anyone can become involved in a variety of volunteer activities by serving on the boards and commissions,” she said.

Shuemaker says what he enjoys most about Manassas Park is only going to be enhanced by what’s coming to the city next — a new, mixed-use downtown center.

City Manager Laszlo Palko said city hall and the surrounding area will be transformed.

“What we’re constructing right now is a new plaza, which will house a mixed-use building for our city hall, our library and a couple restaurants, one a coffee shop that’s connected to the library,” he said.

The downtown, which is expected to be completed in 2024, will have a movie theater and a splash pad, an outdoor sprinkler-like water system. Palko, who has lived in Manassas Park for more than four years, is looking forward to bringing his 6-year-old daughter to it.

“It’s going to be a blast to be able to take her there to enjoy that. Also, there’s going to be a significant improvement in the quality of life in the city,” he said.

Palko noted that the development is bringing not only more fun for families but also more of a nightlife for the city’s residents.

Though the city is embracing a more urban lifestyle, there are still places to explore nature and enjoy the outdoors, such as Blooms Park, which the city acquired just before the start of the pandemic in 2020. The former General’s Ridge Golf Course has 4.25 miles of trails.

Shuemaker noted that the city’s Little League fields have been transformed so that residents can play cricket, a popular activity in Manassas Park and surrounding Prince William County.

For all its benefits, Shuemaker noted that there is a trade-off to living in Manassas Park. While housing in the area might be less expensive than in Fairfax or Arlington, it takes more time to get to D.C.

“I can buy more house than I could somewhere closer in, but the trade is I might have to sit in more traffic and the commute is a little bit longer,” he said.

The heart of the city is the community. When Shuemaker lost his parents 11 months apart, the people of Manassas Park kept him going.

“It’s a great community spirit,” he said. “We’re closely tied together as a small city versus some of the bigger places, and I think that’s a really nice advantage for people. People feel, in Northern Virginia, which is very transient, that they can really kind of build roots here and really feel like they’re home, and they can build families here and stay for a while. It’s a good place to live.”

Rishell added: “I always say that when you are in Manassas Park, you are home. And I believe that is true.”

Living there: Manassas Park is roughly bordered by West Rugby Road and Old Centreville Road to the north, Birmingham Drive to the east, Price Drive to the south and Baker Street to the west. It has a variety of housing options, including rental apartments, traditional townhouses, two-over-two stacked townhouses, condominiums, and single-family homes. The city is within a 15-minute drive of Interstate 66 and Route 28. Manassas Drive bisects the community.

Dori Loar, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty, said 28 homes are on the market in Manassas Park and 16 are coming soon.

In the past year, 559 homes sold in the city, with a median listing price of $575,000. The most expensive home sold was a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom Colonial for $1.3 million, and the least expensive was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo for $150,000.

A one-bedroom, one-bathroom basement-unit apartment rented for $1,750, Loar said.

Transit: Manassas Park doesn’t have a Metro station. The nearest station is about a 30-minute drive away. The Virginia Railway Express stops in Manassas Park.

Schools: Cougar Elementary (grades PreK-2), Manassas Park Elementary (grades 3-5), Manassas Park Middle (grades 6-8) and Manassas Park High (grades 9-12).

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