ULI Washington News

Event Recap – Liberty at Lorton Case Study

On Saturday, October 14th, ULI members headed to Lorton, Virginia for a free event that introduced them to the redevelopment of the Lorton Reformatory that housed prisoners from Washington, DC. Lorton was operated by the District Department of Corrections. Originally commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century, the Lorton Reformatory defied prison norms from the beginning. Natural light, fresh air, and open green space were all items that Roosevelt felt were important in rehabilitation, leading to the dormitory-style buildings being constructed in a manner akin to a college campus versus traditional cellblocks.

Located outside the District of Columbia in Fairfax County, Virginia, the historic Lorton Prison, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is undergoing extensive redevelopment through a public private partnership. The repurposed reformatory site is being turned into an urban community that when completed will feature 165 apartments, 157 townhomes, 24 single-family homes, six condominiums and up to 100,000 square feet of office and retail space – a $190 million redevelopment known as Liberty.  Project partners presented a comprehensive case study to attendees, highlighting differing perspectives on historic preservation, infill development, adaptive reuse, master planning, public-private partnerships, community outreach, and more. This one-of-a-kind development required creativity and an outside-the-box approach on all levels and panelists discussed challenges, solutions and more.

The presentation was followed by a fascinating tour of the adaptive reuse of the prison facility and the new residential units being completed on the site.  None of the units carved out of the prison are the same, making for interesting footprints and unique living spaces.  Forty-five percent of the apartment the units are affordable housing available to people earning either 50 percent or 120 percent of the Area Median Income (depending on the unit).  Attendees toured the new townhouses and single family homes on the site, and got a chance to go into a portion of the reformatory to see a section that is not renovated.  This tour made attendees understand the creative vision that had to be embraced to rehab the buildings into residential uses.

Speakers at the session included:

  • David Vos, Development Project Manager, The Alexander Company
  • Jim Perry, Regional Partner / Vice President, Elm Street Development
  • Heather Diez, Project Coordinator, Fairfax County
  • Leanna O’Donnell, Department of Planning and Zoning, Fairfax County
  • Elizabeth Tune, Director of the Division of Preservation Incentives, Virginia Department of Historic Resources
  • Chris Fox, Vice President of Architecture, Van Metre Homes
  • Frank Duduk, Partner, SmartSite
  • Scott Carver, Director, Southway Builders
  • Aaron Vinson, Director of Engineering, Walter L. Phillips
  • Ron James, Principal Geologist, D3G

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