The Fairfax County Architectural Review Board will hear public comments and move Thursday on rezoning the 78.5-acre Adaptive Reuse Area at Laurel Hill. The proposed development of the county's land by the Alexander Company will mean the renovation of prison buildings and the creation of more than 40,000 square feet of offices, single family homes, apartments, shops, restaurants and a power plant.
"I look at this as the final step in terms of putting a planning cap on the Laurel Hill community," said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland to Patch. "This is the final piece—taking the rest of the old Lorton prison and transforming it into a center of residential, retail and community uses."
The land is currently designated as a Historic Overlay District, and is currently protected against the level of development proposed. The rezoning would allow eight dwelling units per acre and designate it as a Planned Development Commercial District, which allows the creation of restaurants, offices and civic centers.
The site is located west of Silverbrook Road, southeast of the Spring Hill senior residential community, north of Lorton Road and Giles Run Meadow Park and east of the Laurel Hill Golf Course. It includes the former Lorton Prison Reformatory, prison buildings and the prison baseball field.
Critics of the plan lament the loss of the prison's Hilltop Field Ballpark, which was dedicated by the Washington Senators in 1956. The grandstand will remain, but the plan for the outfield is to build market-rate townhouses on the property.
"It should stay a usable ball field," said Neil McBride, a member of the Lorton Heritage Society, to Patch. "If it's just a grandstand, I'm worried that it's going to be the responsibility of the HOA, and that means it'll be poorly policed and be a haven for kids, drugs and crime."
The county has agreed to sell approximately a third of the 80 acres to the Alexander Company, which in turn will build townhomes on the former ballfield.
"The decision on the ball park has already been made by the Board of Supervisors," said Greg Riegle, land use attorney for the Alexander Company, to Patch. "They have to make sure that adaptive reuse happens, and we work at the direction of the county."
The project also includes:
- New Construction: 22,400 square feet
- Historic Dining Hall: 11,000 square feet
- Power Plant: 8,000 square feet
- Historic Office Space: 50,000 square feet
- Combination of market-rate (127 units) and affordable (44 units) apartments in the Reformatory buildings: 50,000 square feet
- Chapel: 20,000 square feet
The Alexander Co. would like to start working on the residential-end of the business first, and would renovate 171 apartments in the historic buildings in 2013. "So, if townhome development follows suit, we're looking at 2013-2014 prep, with occupation as early as 2015," said Chris Caperton, the Fairfax County Laurel Hill Project coordinator to Patch.
Caperton said that there is a $12 million funding gap for the project that needs to be filled. "The county is going to work with the developer on how to close that gap. We haven't yet explored ways to fill it, whether it's through tax increment financing, through a bond program or another solution," he said.
Riegle said that Alexander Co. is ready to get to work. "I think Alexander wants to start as quickly as the process will allow," he said. "Every day that goes by the project costs the county money."
The meeting begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center in Conference Rooms 4 and 5.
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