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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Redfearn

Annaburg: From Manor to Park Master Plan

How one historic site is getting a third chance.

It’s not often that when we go to work, we get to hang out in a beautiful historic park on a sunny afternoon. But this past month, that is just what we did. On May 8th, the Berkley Group facilitated a community conversation to present and receive feedback on the Annaburg Park Master Plan for the City of Manassas. The event was the culmination of over 9 months of community outreach, historic research, site analysis, and park design. In partnership with LPDA, landscape architects, Berkley Group led the development of a Park Master Plan that will breathe new life into the historic Annaburg site located in the heart of Manassas.

Annaburg has a long history as a recreational destination. Robert Portner, the Prussian born entrepreneur and Alexandria brewer who built the 1892 Annaburg estate as a summer retreat, generously enabled his neighbors to enjoy what was essentially a town park long before parks existed. After Robert and his wife Anna passed away and the house was no longer occupied, residents still recalled the grounds as a place to stroll, take photographs, and skate on the frozen ponds in winter. Throughout the property’s second life as a nursing facility, the building remained a city icon and the grounds a place to recreate. In 2018, the City of Manassas completed the purchase of 3.65 acres of the historic Annaburg site to preserve this important historic resource and create the community’s 22nd park. Giving the site its third lease on life, the Park Master Plan aims to protect the historic house while bringing the grounds into productive use for all of Manassas’s residents.

Because of the site’s long history in the community and the sensitive nature of the historic resources, thoughtful community engagement and technical preservation knowledge were critical for plan development. The Berkley Group designed a process that allowed robust community involvement in despite the challenges of COVID. The result was a multi-pronged engagement platform that included: the creation of a task force to represent the direct interests of various stakeholder groups; virtual meetings and online surveys to solicit feedback on programming, design, and concept alternatives; and socially distanced, outdoor meetings to discuss plans while viewing and enjoying the historic site. Regular community engagement combined with thorough historic research to understand the site and the application of technical preservation knowledge to inform site analysis has resulted in the creation of a plan with broad community support. The Park Master Plan includes amenities to attract a variety of users, integrates amenities into the historic landscape while protecting sensitive resources, and beautifully draws design inspiration from the history of the site. The Master Plan will be finalized over the next few months and will present a concept for future park development accompanied by phasing options and implementation strategies.

The Annaburg Park Master Plan is one of several projects the Berkley Group has successfully worked with the City of Manassas to complete. Our next partnership with the City includes the update and modernization of the City’s Historic Overlay District Design Guidelines. The Berkley Group’s historic preservation services include historic site research for planning and grants, Historic Preservation Plans, Historic Overlay Zoning, and Historic District Design Guidelines.

For more information on the Annaburg project, site history, and next steps, visit the Annaburg Master Plan project webpage.


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