Cindy Jones is one of my favorite local bloggers. Her knowledge of the Occoquan River Communities including Lorton, Belmont Bay and Occoquan is exceptional and I always look forward to reading her posts. In case you missed this one on the reuse of the land of the former Lorton Prison it is worth a read.
For over 100 years Lorton was an area that most residents of Northern Virginia went out of their way to avoid. As a prison complex the 3,200 acre site was huge and at night driving by the area the signs warning you not to pick up anyone on the road were ominous. When the facility was ordered closed in 1998, Fairfax County began planning in earnest with what to do with the land and buildings that made up the infamous prison. In 2002 Fairfax County officials received title to 2400 acres and the re-development of the property began.
Multiple neighborhoods were carved out of the grounds, along with parks, schools, golf course, arts center and future equestrian center. The largest of the neighborhoods, Laurel Hill has 700 homes built by Pulte or Centex Homes. In addition to Laurel Hill, other neighborhoods that have grown out of the redevelopment of the old prison land include Laurel Crest, Laurel Highlands and the over 55 community of Spring Hill.
In 2006 the new South County Secondary School opened and this year redistricting will increase the student population in the 8-12th grade facility to 1600 students. A new elementary school is proposed to open in 2009. With the revitalization of the area the new neighborhoods have grown popular with military families moving to the Northern Virginia. Only a few miles from the main gate of Ft. Belvoir and with easy access to the VRE or HOV lanes a trip to the Military District of Washington, Pentagon or Navy Yard is quick as well. A reverse commute to Quantico can be clocked in 20 minutes.
The Laurel Hill golf course operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority opened in 2007 and with an 18 hole championship course and 9000 square foot club house it has become a terrific place for Lorton residents to gather. Bike paths and walking trials connect different sections of the community and also connect with the Fairfax County Cross County Trail. Located 10 minutes from Burke Lake Park owners who are looking for more outdoor activities can either ride their bikes or hop in the car for a quick trip to the park.
The jewel of the redevelopment is the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center. The grand opening of the center will take place the week of September 19-27th with tours and artists studio openings happening all week long. Proposed new stores and restaurants will round out the neighborhood making once was depressing area the newest "it" place in Northern Virginia.