Lorton Prison Land Mapped Out but Not Final

Lorton Prison Land Mapped Out but Not Final

On one of the slides presented by county spokesperson Mary Ashton, the description of future development on the former Lorton Prison land was described as "world class," alarming some who pictured extravagant, Reston-Town-Center structures with supporting retail dotting the 2,440-acre site.

"I think we need to stick to doing public uses," said Charlie Creighton, a resident of the area.

Concerned parent Liz Bradsher didn't like "world class," either, and wanted to replace it with "innovative solutions."

"World class reminds me of Reston Town Center," she said.

This was just one of the topics of concern in the early phases of the Laurel Hill Master Planning Process, an evolution of steps toward finalizing a plan that will try to address all the needs of the area. The meeting, which took place on Saturday, March 15, at Silverbrook Elementary, was attended by Fairfax County representatives, members of the Lorton Arts Foundation, parents and residents of the surrounding area. Ashton, the assistant to the county executive, presented the slide show with county representative Doug Peterson. Ashton called the process "an opportunity to build a vision."

The current plan is dominated by park land but includes a high school and middle-school site, a golf course, Fairfax County Park Authority land and Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority land, a bike trail, and one area currently being constructed as residential.

PULTE DEVELOPERS swapped a horse farm out along Gunston Road for a 282-acre parcel of land, which they are now building on. Proffers for an elementary school were included with this, as well as the widening of Silverbrook Road.

"They are doing road improvements. Lorton Road is scheduled for six lanes," said Neil McBride, one of the players in the Laurel Hill site.

The bike trail will be named the "Laurel Hill Greenway Bike Trail" according to Peterson, which will be five miles "as a southern terminus for the cross-county trail," which is being pieced together.

The meeting was in the early part of Phase II, "Alternatives and Evaluation," which will conclude later in the spring. Phase III involves drafting a plan, and Phase IV, the "Final Plan," will conclude with submitting recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors by November 2003. Intertwined throughout the process are team and committee meetings, community workshops and scenario evaluations. There were no exact dates on future meetings.

In coming weeks, the ground will be broken for the high school on Silverbrook Road. It is scheduled to open in 2005. There is a middle-school site near there, as well, and a stretch of land between the school sites labeled environmentally sensitive. Bradsher has been pushing for the school since her time on the Hayfield Pyramid Solution group. She had an idea for the environmental area to be a living laboratory for school use.

"Why not have the school maintain it and use it? I'm going to suggest it," she said.

ON THE MAP, several areas are labeled "adaptive re-use area" and "landfill resource recovery facility" or shaded in another color that remained undescribed. Ashton mentioned a Fastran center, a police garage and a heliport for the police helicopters as potential facilities at these locations.

Beverly Cosham was with the Lorton Arts Foundation, which has its eyes on an arts complex with a stage for performing arts, possibly in one of the existing prison structures. The George Mason University arts community will possibly combine forces for this structure.

"We're working on putting in an art complex, with some bigger space you can display bigger art," she said.

A Torpedo Factory-type art complex was envisioned. The Torpedo Factory houses the Alexandria artists in Old Town Alexandria. A brochure of the proposed center, titled "The Lorton Work House Arts Center," is being circulated at the Pulte sales office across from the former prison.

The arts center campus plan shows the center at the intersection of Lorton Road and Route 123. It would have a theater, studios, a prison museum, events center, performing arts center and a music stage with outdoor festival seating

Under the current budgetary crisis, "public-private partnership" was a funding source that was mentioned more than once. This method of funding is currently being utilized for the South County High School on Silverbrook Road, where a private company is being used for construction and bypasses many of the county building delays. Also, in the way of funding, terms such as environmental stewardships, grants, bonds, in-kind services and donations were also brought up. The arts foundation needs $12 million alone.

"It's a phased thing, over five years," said McBride.