On-line Book
Cover book to Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. [Image of cannon in the battlefield]
Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park


Table of Contents




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

current topic Chapter 10

Chapter 11


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Appendix V (omitted from on-line edition)

Appendix VI

Appendix VII

Appendix VIII

Chapter 10
National Park Service Arrowhead

Stonewalling the Mall

Initial Reaction

In late January 1988 Bob Kelly, Hazel/Peterson's vice president for public relations and the company's principal contact person for the park, casually announced to Swain and park management assistant Susan Moore that Hazel/Peterson Companies wanted to build a regional shopping mall on top of Stuart's Hill. As Moore remembered it, Kelly just dropped by park headquarters and said "Oh, by the way, we've changed our plans slightly. Will this cause you any concern?" Swain and Moore immediately recognized the import of this news: more traffic needing more interchanges and upgraded roads, a highly visible megastructure on top of the hill. The proposed campuslike office park set within a heavily landscaped setting and joined by residential homes and a small community shopping center had now become a bustling shopping mecca for northern Virginia. Swain "cried foul" as the Park Service evaluated its response to this change in plans. [2]

Til Hazel and his company proposed to build a 1.2 million-square-foot mall, anchored by five major department stores, as the centerpiece of the 542-acre William Center. Hazel/Peterson obtained the services of the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, one of the country's leading owners and operators of shopping centers, for the project. Construction was expected to start in two years, once stores had been signed up. To show the importance of the mall, William Center literature proudly boasted that in its first ten years of operation, the mall and the other nonresidential components of the tract would generate $27.3 million in net fiscal benefits for the county. After twenty years, Hazel/Peterson estimated the total fiscal benefit to be almost $180 million, a healthy infusion into county coffers. [3]

Mindful of these tax revenues, Prince William officials welcomed the idea of having a huge shopping mall built on the William Center property. Supervisor Robert Cole relished the prospect that his county would no longer have to "stand in the shadow of Fairfax County," an adjacent county that had experienced a massive building boom in recent years. With the mall in place, other quality development, including corporate offices and headquarters, would logically follow, ensuring the economic health of the western portion of the county. Although the chairman of the board of county supervisors, Kathleen K. Seefeldt, voiced concerns over the shape of the resulting transportation network, she remained generally in favor of the mall. [4]

The mall announcement caught the NPS off guard. Swain remembered the feeling as playing a "bait and switch game" and wondered if Hazel/Peterson had always intended to build a mall but waited to announce it until after the rezoning had been approved. In fact, Hazel had wanted to include a mall in the William Center development from the start and had sought the planned mixed-use district zoning because this zoning category permitted such a retail center. The PMD description allowed for unspecified retail development. Hazel waited to make the mall announcement until a developer had been identified and signed onto the project. This delay in fully disclosing the extent of development planned for the William Center left Swain and many others feeling deceived. As Annie Snyder wrote in early February, western Prince William County residents felt "deceived, cheated and defrauded" by the Hazel/Peterson Companies. For many, the developer showed an apparent disregard for the good faith agreements it had made with the Park Service and the Northwest Prince William County Association (NWPWCA). [5]

For the Park Service and mall opponents, adding a regional shopping mall to the original campuslike office park created an entirely new situation, one that threatened the existing Manassas battlefield park. First, the Park Service and county residents believed that William Center traffic would increase considerably with the mall, with as many as 80,000 cars per day traveling to the shopping center. Lee Highway and Route 234 through the battlefield park would he especially attractive for handling this traffic, thereby putting the battlefield park in jeopardy. Hazel disagreed, saying that only the sixteen shopping days preceding Christmas would bring this level of mall visitation. The rest of the year, the mall would generate lighter traffic than office complexes, which create heavy rush hour demands. Second, the Park Service worried about the road widenings the increased mall traffic would necessitate, specifically at the Stone House intersection. Third, building a mall on top of Stuart's Hill would make the complex visible from many points in the battlefield park. Swain had worked hard to reduce this type of visual intrusion in his 1986 negotiations with Hazel/Peterson. The mall proposal made those negotiations seemingly immaterial. [6]

Finally, for many residents, the regional mall seemed incompatible with the historical and environmental value of the surrounding countryside. Malls represented blatant twentieth-century commercialism and materialism. They ate up land with acres of parking lots. It seemed that a mall could be built anywhere, whereas the few remaining pieces of open land should be saved. Many mall opponents also questioned the plan's economic soundness. Fair Oaks, a similarly sized mall, was located only eight miles east of the William Center site. Tyson's Corner, with two huge shopping centers, was not far from Fair Oaks. With so many regional shopping opportunities located close by, the Manassas mall might be the economic loser. [7]

Seeking a way to address this situation, NPS Director Mott turned to Prince William County. Mott reinvoked his call for partnerships between federal and local governments. In a 5 February letter to Kathleen Seefeldt of the board of supervisors, Mott asked the county to join with the Park Service to consider the impact of the mall on both the county and the battlefield park. Mott knew that the landscape surrounding the battlefield park would inevitably change and that the Park Service could not acquire all lands, and he understood the "heavy burdens born by county officials in rapidly developing areas," yet he believed that through partnerships, county officials and the Park Service could achieve mutually beneficial goals. By reducing the visual impact of outside developments, the park's historic integrity would be preserved, and the county would have a valuable resource. "In the spirit of full and friendly" cooperation, Mott asked Seefeldt to give the mall proposal a "thorough review." [8]

Mott may have been honest in his attempt to forge a working relationship with the county, but he exacerbated the situation by publicly releasing the letter at the same time he mailed it to Seefeldt. Seefeldt sent an angry reply, accusing Mott of trying to "inflame" citizens and prevent a rational and substantive discussion of the issues. Seefeldt called Mott's gesture toward partnerships with local government "neither useful nor wise" and questioned the Park Service's commitment to preservation. She contended that Prince William officials were "extremely proud" of their county's heritage and had done "nothing, nor will it, to desecrate or damage" the battlefield. In addition, Seefeldt questioned the Park Service's stewardship of its own park in light of the 1986 dumping of the gas station debris on Henry Hill and the continuing proposal to cut down acres of mature trees to restore the historic scene. In her opinion, the mall would bring more visitors to the battlefield park, and thus the two facilities would likely "complement each other, and not necessarily compete." Hazel/Peterson's "extensive measures" to place buffers and upgrade roads would help ensure the historic integrity of the park. [9]

It is likely that Prince William County officials would have opposed Mott's call for partnerships regardless. They considered the tax benefit of the William Center development to be better for the county than the economic value the battlefield park provided. Seefeldt and the other county supervisors had already indicated to the press their favorable response to the mall proposal. According to the county attorney, the mall fit within the restrictions of the planned mixed-use district, which allowed for retail business. In addition, the county's 1982 comprehensive plan had designated the tract for an office park development, which Hazel/Peterson's plans included. Citizen input had helped formulate the county plan, and the board believed that the William Center development fit the county's long-term future, as determined by its own citizens. With the rezoning in place, Prince William officials could not revert to agricultural zoning without prompting a lawsuit from the developer. In the county's eyes, Hazel/Peterson had every reason to proceed with the office park and shopping mall. [10]

Local citizens, seeking recourse within the county for opposing the mall, requested a new public hearing. On the basis of legality, the county declined the request. This decision created a split between mall supporters and opponents. To mall opponents living in Prince William County, "the jingle of cash registers" made the mall all the more palatable to county officials. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Yardley wrote on 1 February that "the deck has been stacked against [mall opponents] by the Board of County Supervisors, which is clearly hand in glove with the developers." The county would not be able to shake this perception. [11]

CONTINUED continued


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