Not too long ago, Lorton wasn't much more than a prison and lots of open fields. When the prison closed, the floodgates of change opened, bringing with it a population boom, one new school, two others in the works and two big questions: where will all these people live and where will they shop?
The answers to those questions will become a little clearer, as the Spring Hill community for adults over the age of 55 and two shopping centers open within the next six months.
"We're finding that things are springing out of the ground that will bring increased opportunities for people who live here in terms of being able to recreate, with 1,200-plus acres of park land, the golf course and the construction of retail facilities that will evolve," said Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon). "People are going to be able to stay in the community to get what they need."
Residents will also continue to see their community turn into "a vibrant place," he said. "Lorton is an exciting place to live. There's been a tremendous metamorphosis from what used to be there, and it's arriving at a rapid pace."
Courtesy of by-right development, KSI Developers will open two shopping centers in early 2006, the Lorton Market Place on Lorton Road just east of Interstate 95, and the Lorton Town Center, located next to the Virginia Railway Express Station on Lorton Station Boulevard.
The anchor of the Lorton Market will be a Shoppers Food Warehouse grocery store and a Glory Days restaurant, said Troy DeHaven, commercial project executive with KSI Developers. "We are scheduled to start turning space over to the tenants in late February and expect to have a grand opening hopefully in April," DeHaven said.
Construction began on the 135,000 square foot shopping plaza last August, which will include 20 retailers in addition to the grocery store. More than 16,000 square feet of office space will be available on the second story of some buildings as well, he said.
In the Lorton Station neighborhood, the Lorton Town Center has already welcomed one tenant, a branch of Wachovia banks that opened on Monday, Jan. 9.
"We will have 36,000 square feet of retail space that is currently under construction, and we hope to start delivering that to tenants in late February," DeHaven said. "It could be at some point between April and June before some of the stores open."
All store fronts have been leased in the shopping center, he said, which will be anchored by three sit-down restaurants, two of which will feature "wood-fire grills."
"We will have a Subway, a Daily Grind and dry cleaner services available," DeHaven said of the plaza, which is located adjacent to the Lorton Station VRE depot. The largest tenants of the plaza will be a Remax real estate office and the Fireside Grill restaurant.
The Lorton Town Center will also have 36 condominium units available above two of the commercial buildings, and 256 more condos will be built by Engle Developers, he said.
The Lorton Town Center was designed to be built "on a pedestrian scale," DeHaven said, and in keeping with that mind-set, the center has no high-rise buildings, unlike the Reston Town Center.
"All the buildings face Lorton Station Boulevard, which makes if pedestrian friendly. There's also lots of brick architecture," which reflects the new community built across the street, he said.
In the final installment of the triple-crown deal made possible through the same public-private partnership that funded the South County Secondary School, work on the Spring Hill community for people over the age of 55 is well underway.
Both Pulte Homes and KSI are working on creating a series of apartments, condominiums and single family homes across the street from South County Secondary. While KSI is currently working on finalizing their plans for the adaptive reuse of some of the former prison buildings for their portion of the Spring Hill community, Pulte Homes has already begun construction on the 149 single family homes that are planned on Silverbrook Road.
"We are extremely excited about Spring Hill, which opened for sales in September," said Shawn Evans, vice president for sales and marketing with Pulte. "We have already sold 70 homes, so there's been a tremendous interest."
Some single family homes will open for occupation in February, with some of the villa units ready to be moved into by this summer.
Villas are similar in design to townhomes, but are arranged so owners can "do all their living on one level," Evans said. "Typically, there is an owner's suite or master bedroom in addition to another bedroom which can be used as an office," he said, along with the standard living and dining rooms.
Some units will have the option of a patio, while others will feature a loft space "for those folks who don't mind the stairs or who would like to have an upstairs bedroom for guests or grandkids to visit," Evans said.
Condominium units will be going on sale starting in mid-summer, according to the Pulte Web site. In total 120 condos will accompany 150 single family homes and 32 villa homes, Evans said.
The KSI portion of the Spring Hill development is still working through the Architectural Review Board approval proceedings, said Janice Navarro-Chan, director of multi-family development for KSI.
Five former prison buildings will be adaptively reused in the KSI development, she said, so the ARB has to give approval for all plans related to the project, including the selection of brick colors for the exterior of the buildings, the light fixtures and the types of windows that will be installed.
"Hopefully after the next meeting with the ARB we will have received approval for our color selections on the windows and entrances to the buildings," Navarro-Chan said. "We've also made some changes to the meditation garden which will be built near the independent seniors building."
Once all approvals have been received by KSI, the project will then have to get site plan and building plan approval before KSI can receive the construction documents and break ground, she said.
"We're still nine to 12 months away from getting our construction documents," she said.
The Laurel Hill Golf Club may have opened to rave reviews in October, but construction on the 9,400 square foot Clubhouse was not completed.
"Our completion date is looking like late spring, early summer, maybe around May," said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority which owns the property. "On a nice day, people are still out golfing, even though it's January."
According to the golf course's Web site, the Clubhouse will feature a large banquet room and "bistro area," along with a small dining room to accommodate groups of varying sizes. The building will also house a pro shop, selling rain gear, clothing with the club's logo and golf accessories.
Much like the Spring Hill and South County buildings, the Clubhouse was designed to be reminiscent of the Lorton Prison buildings, with arched windows and using bricks that are similar to the color of the Reform-era prison.
Designed by Princeton Companies of Perceville, VA and built by EMSI Engineering, Inc. of Manassas, the Laurel Hill Golf Club Clubhouse has a price tag of $3.7 million, which include the cost of "the building, interior furnishings and fixtures, the parking lot, utilities, the starter building, the golf cart staging area and landscaping," Pedersen said.