Plans for Old Mount Vernon High School

Plans for Old Mount Vernon High School

Virtual meeting puts educational uses on the forefront for the 1939 building.

Plans emerge for Old Mount Vernon High School.

Plans emerge for Old Mount Vernon High School.

Renovating and reusing the existing structure that once was the Mount Vernon High School moved closer to Phase I recently when Supervisor Dan Storck (D-Mount Vernon) organized a virtual meeting with the community and designers to discuss the plan and listen to ideas.

“It’s just an amazing building we have on the Richmond Highway corridor,” Storck said. “This is part of the redevelopment of this part of the highway.”

The Original Mount Vernon High School was built in 1939, a classic example of Colonial Revival architecture. The county-owned facility is located on Richmond Highway on a 22-acre property that was once part of George Washington’s estate. In 1987, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources determined that the high school property was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The school was listed on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register in December 2017, and in the National Registry of Historic Places in May 2018. The approximately 140,000-square-foot Mount Vernon High School facility consists of the main high school building and several smaller buildings to the west and south of the main structure. There are two athletic fields to the southeast of the property that are scheduled for community use.

Phase I is a plan to turn the main building into a learning facility with a “multigenerational use,” Storck said, under a theme called, “Pathways to Opportunity.” The pathways fall under a loose plan to live, work and connect. Along with an educational portion, there could also be senior housing, non-profit space, and a playground. Some of it has been renovated and is in use now. “Make it a place everybody is going to want to come to,” Storck said.

For the education side of it, school board member Karen Corbett Sanders looked at the history of the old Mount Vernon High School too. It was the second high school in the county and she mentioned the partnerships with George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Community College to implement programs for the students. “That building will once again be the center of the community,” she said.

Randy Livermon is with VMDO, an architect firm that designed some of the Phase 1 plan. That firm also designed an interior renovation at John Handley High School in Winchester that “is similar,” he said. “We find ways to re-energize,” he said. They also did part of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Funding At Large

Phase 1 comes with an $81 million price tag, and on one of the slides, the source of this funding was touched on. “The county is pursuing innovative ways to fund the project,” it read, and the term public-private partnership was mentioned. This method of rebuilding a historic structure was used for the former Lorton Reformatory. The Lorton Reformatory buildings that were once prisons are now condominiums, and an art facility known as “The Workhouse,” houses many artists, but it all did not happen without public funding to get started. According to the county website, “on July 15, 2002, after the property was surveyed and covenants established, 2324 acres were transferred to Fairfax County for $4.2 million.”

One of the public’s questions at the end had to do with housing, which could bring more people, traffic and congestion to an already busy area. Ipek Aktuglu with the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services handled questions. “Potentially in a future phase,” was her response, before Storck spoke up again, looking forward to phases two and three. “We don’t know specifically what that will look like,” Storck said.

Bill Kosanovich questioned what the residents in the immediate area, which he said were Black and Latino, might need. “It seems like there is a little bit of something for everybody. That really isn't a recipe for equity. Equity suggests providing what is needed. The greatest needs in this area are still felt in the Black and Latino communities. How is it that these communities are not central to this project?” he asked.

Other questions focused on the fields behind the school, parking, Zephyr Road and non-profit space. Phase 1 is expected to be completed in Fall 2024.