Fairfax County Approves Laurel Hill Master Development Plan


June 3, 2014

News Highlights

  • The former Lorton Prison will become a mixed use community, pending approval of a financial agreement with two developers. The old prison buildings will be preserved and reused.
  • Laurel Hill, as the area is now known, will become home to up to 412 apartments, condos, townhomes and single family homes; 110,000 square feet inretail and office space; and 20,000 square feet in community space.
  • This project will generate about $2.5 million in tax revenues annually and 300 jobs in total, according an independent analysis.

Fairfax County approved the redevelopment plan to turn the former  Lorton Prison into a mixed use community.

The 80-acre site, now called the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Area, is poised to become home to housing, retail and offices—pending approval of a financial deal with two developers. The site will offer up to 412 housing units and 110,000 square feet of retail and office space while preserving and reusing former prison buildings.

The Board of Supervisors approved the plan at their June 3 meeting and they will take action on the financial deal with The Alexander Company and Elm Street on July 29. These two companies will redevelop the site under a legal agreement with the county.

 “I was pleased to support the re-planning and re-purposing of Laurel Hill,” said Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova. “Fairfax County’s purchase of the former Lorton Prison has provided the opportunity to create a vibrant community in the South County area.  Providing attractive tax-producing residential and retail uses is a real victory and the right decision for our board.”

Notably, the county will only pick up a projected $12.7 million of the estimated $188 million project, under the yet-to-be approved financial deal. Fairfax’s contribution goes towards new infrastructure needed to adaptively reuse the site. The county will split these infrastructure costs equally with the developers—but the deal caps the county’s contribution to a maximum, fixed amount.

The project is expected to create new jobs and tax revenue for the county, as determined by independent analysts.  At build-out, tax revenues – primarily from property taxes – will be approximately $2.5M annually.  Additionally, the project is expected to create approximately 300 new jobs.

The approved redevelopment plan calls for up to:

  • 412 market-rate residential units, including up to 225 apartments in former prison dorms and workshops, 157 new townhomes, 6 condos and 24 new single family homes
  • 110,000 square feet of retail and office space
  • 20,000 square feet in civic or community space

The former prison buildings are historically protected. Agreements with federal, state and local preservation groups direct the county to explore the adaptive reuse and preservation of the former prison. Preserved and reused buildings will include dormitories, cell blocks, guard towers, prison walls, guard’s quarters, a chapel, and the on-site power plant. These buildings will be converted into housing, retail, office and civic or community space.

If the financial deal with Alexander and Elm Street is ultimately approved, development could begin as soon as this October.

The project divides the development into two phases. The first phase encompasses the site’s former reformatory area, including the dormitories, industrial shop buildings, dining hall, chapel, power plant, and new construction.

The first phase, expected to begin this October, consists of 165 apartments, including 44 affordable units located in former prison buildings, and 107 new homes.  Construction on the apartments is expected to be finished in October 2016, and the new homes are slated for completion in 2020.

The project’s second phase is expected to begin in October 2016, redeveloping the former penitentiary area. The plans also call for new construction in this area, offering up to 49,000 square feet in commercial and retail space.  In addition, the remainder of the new construction– 74 townhomes–will be completed in this phase.

In exchange for redeveloping the site, the county will lease most of the land and buildings to the developers rent-free for 99 years; the portion of the property developed as for-sale residential will be conveyed by deed.

Fairfax County acquired the former prison property for $4.2 million in July 2002. While the entire property encompasses about 2,323 acres, a portion, including the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Area, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Area Master Plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2010, after a two-year master planning effort

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