Former Lorton Prison to House New Residential Development

LAUREL HILL, Va. — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $188 million overhaul of the former Lorton prison site, which closed in 2001, on June 3. A 30-day public comment period has ensued, and if approved, the county plans to transfer parts of the land to the project developers: Alexander Co. and Elm Street Communities.

The 80-acre project, set to break ground in October, will include building townhouses, apartments, single-family homes and retail space inside refurbished cellblocks, guard towers and prison dorms.

The project will ease the county’s financial issues after a failing arts center was built on the correctional center grounds, putting the county $30 million in debt, reported The Washington Post. However, the Workhouse Arts Center will remain in operation near the site of the new project.

Pending public approval, the prison site construction project will be completed in two phases. As many as 412 condos, town homes, single-family homes and affordable units will be built and financed through federal low-income housing tax credits, according to county officials. It will also include 110,000 square feet of retail and office space and a 20,000-square-foot public space located inside the former prison’s chapel. Homes or businesses will take up room in the former prison’s former dining hall.

The new residential area will be called Laurel Hill to help rebrand the area after being known for housing Washington, D.C.’s penitentiary, landfills and other heavy industrial operations for decades. The prison alone was active for more than 92 years since its inception in 1910. The project will mainly be privately financed; however, the county will pay $12.7 million in infrastructure improvements. It also may be financed through federal and state tax credits used to help historic sites.

The county is also deciding whether or not to close a nearby landfill sooner than its operator wants. As such, residents have asked county supervisors to require the prison replacement project to recycle construction debris. That decision will be made later this month.