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Laurel Hill Task Force Takes New Direction

With the adoption of six major recommendations, the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Citizen Task Force seized an opportunity for a whole new direction.

That is the assessment of its chairman, Tim Sargeant. "By adopting the recommendations, we created a greater opportunity for more professional planning input," he said.

Meeting in the Mount Vernon Government Center, the Task Force, which is charged with assisting the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in the development of the old Lorton Prison site, now known as Laurel Hill, unanimously adopted a set of recommended actions and a schedule to meet their deadline of March 2004.

"We are now focusing our attention on the central maximum area. It contains approximately 150 acres and the historic buildings," Sargeant said. "Our recommendations will go to the Board of Supervisors for their final decision."

After acquiring the property in a combination purchase and land swap, the county began working with consultants and community representatives to define options for reuse. One of the groups representing the community interests has been the task force.

In the core area of the former prison are various buildings that have historical significance. As the prison expanded through the years, the buildings were built by the inmates with bricks from the on-site kiln complex located on the banks of the Occoquan River. "One of our jobs is to assess the viability of those buildings," Sargeant explained.

In March of this year, Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerald Hyland said, "The goal of the task force is to assist the Board of Supervisors by making their recommendations ... to develop the property into a world class asset."

The task force has accomplished the following:

* Development of a mission statement and principles to guide the task force and help citizens understand how recommendations are made;

* Sponsorship of five public hearings to garner public input to the adaptive reuse planning process;

* A collaborative working relationship with the Fairfax County Park Authority;

* Recommendation that the Board of Supervisors endorse the Lorton Arts Foundation proposal for an Arts Center. That was done in May of this year.

THE TASK FORCE has been working with the Alexandria-based consulting firm EDAW, specialists in architectural and landscape design. It recommended that the Board initiate a market/potential use analysis of the central/maximum site; make arrangements with the Urban Land Institute to develop and implement a one- to two-day planning exercise; conduct a second market/potential use analysis following the selection of preliminary concepts; develop an outreach program to identify potential partners and/or research possible public/private partnerships; and market/potential use analysis; a second market/potential use analysis of preliminary concepts; an outreach program to identify potential partners; and other activities as needed.

Information about Laurel Hill and the master planning process can be found online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/laurelhill.