Public Affairs

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.

TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035

Tony Castrilli,
Director of Public Affairs

Innovative Ideas Sought to Continue Making the Workhouse Arts Center a Vibrant Mixed Use Arts Campus

Fairfax County and the Workhouse Arts Foundation are looking for innovative ideas to continue transforming the historically significant, 50-plus acre Workhouse Arts campus into the first mixed-used arts campus in the county.Historic building at the Workhouse Arts Center.

The county and the Workhouse recently issued a request for expressions of interest, seeking proposed adaptive re-use concepts from businesses, nonprofits or individuals.

The two entities are asking for cultural, educational, residential, commercial or other uses that complement the Workhouse Arts Center’s existing studio, gallery and museum spaces. This could include food halls, restaurants, craft breweries, craft manufacturing, housing, arts and entertainment venues, business incubators and possibly other uses.

The goal is to bring greater vibrancy to this historic campus, enhance it as a regional arts destination and generate new revenues.

This outreach advances efforts to remake this area of Fairfax County into a regional tourism destination for arts and culture. The Workhouse Arts Center campus, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, anchors the northern end of the NOVA Arts and Cultural District that was created last year with the Occoquan Regional Park and Town of Occoquan.

Workhouse and county officials said proposals can include adaptive reuse of vacant or underused space in the 25 historic buildings on the campus that was once part of the former Lorton Reformatory. New construction also can be proposed, along with ideas for the property’s more than 1.89 acres of green space.

Today, the campus contains 25 historic buildings, a large quad, baseball field and nearly 1,000 parking spaces. The Workhouse has restored 11 buildings, using 95,881 square feet as an arts center. It currently consists of six artist studio buildings, multiple exhibition spaces, numerous education classrooms, dance and movement studios, a culinary kitchen, a main gallery, a theatre and the new Lucy Burns Museum.

Under existing entitlements, the campus is already approved for up to 233,813 square feet for re-use in the existing historic buildings, plus an additional 59,775 square feet of new construction in four new buildings. This includes:Workhouse Arts Center Site Map.

  • Two restaurants or eating establishments with 400 seats total in two new buildings
  • 40 “live-work” apartments originally intended for artists in two new buildings

However, officials say proposed ideas that deviate from these existing development approvals are also encouraged with the understanding that regulatory approval will be required. They are looking for the creative, adaptive re-use concepts to further activate the campus.

The Workhouse currently supports more than 90 professional and emerging artists by providing them affordable studios and 12 galleries in which to exhibit their work. Instead of simply viewing the art, visitors are encouraged to interact with the artists. In addition to visual arts, the center is home to performing arts, including: theater, musical theater, film, music, comedy and dance with 300 performances per year.

Fairfax County owns the campus that was part of the 2,440-acre property that once made up the Lorton Reformatory. The original prison buildings were where the suffragists were imprisoned in 1917 for picketing the White House.Suffragists picketting the White House.

Concepts will be accepted from Dec. 1 through June 30, 2019, and will be reviewed monthly in the order of submission for further action. Concepts presented could lead to a range of actions, including but not limited to in-person discussions, lease negotiation or a formal procurement depending upon the nature of the adaptive reuse concept. The county and Workhouse will conduct site tours on the 15th of each month from December through May 2019 at 10 a.m., except that a site tour will not be held on April 15, 2019. 

For more information, visit the Workhouse Campus RFI webpage or contact Regina Coyle with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1214, TTY 711.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant