Lorton envisions its future in 2040


Longtime Lorton resident and activist Chris Ambrose (l.) gives feedback on the Lorton Core Study to Planning Department staff members Graham Owen (c.) and Steve Waller (r.).

Lorton’s community center and library were filled with charts and maps Saturday, July 15, which showed the possible evolution over the next several decades of the Lorton area from its former life as a prison-industrial area to a “vibrant, walkable, mixed-use center where people want to be,” according to presentation materials.

The task of reimagining Lorton started in 2019 and continued with the community open house, with the goal being to adopt a “community vision statement” by the end of 2023. At some point, a comprehensive plan amendment will lay the ground rules to attract developers. The plan is being ushered by a local Lorton Task Force co-chaired by Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Walter Clarke and South County Federation Chairman Nick Firth.

Asked if there was any controversy over the plan, Firth said, "We are still collecting information and opinions.”

Nick Firth, chair of the South County Federation, describes the nodes slated for various levels of development in the plan.

The open house attracted 30-40 residents, according to Kate Ange, a principal at Renaissance Planning of Arlington, which replaced a previous consultant on the project. She said most people gave positive feedback on the plan and said they hoped for a Lorton with “more there, there.” A virtual version of the open house presentation will be available soon, she said.

Local officials including Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Planning Commissioners Clarke and Tim Sargent (at-large), and a number of Planning Department staff explained the public feedback process and listened to comments. Some residents filled out comment forms as well.

Lorton’s assets include being a transportation hub with Richmond Highway, I-95, the Amtrak Auto Train, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and a possible future expansion of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Richmond Highway. It is also graced with large regional parks, recreational venues, access to the Occoquan River, historic and cultural resources, and the nearby Workhouse Arts Center.

The vision calls for “stronger local retail and business options, community gathering places, and a greater variety of housing options,” as well as better connections for active transportation, such as trails and bike paths.

Development would be centered on infill development in six “activity nodes,” with the three most intensely developed in a triangle along Lorton Road between Richmond Highway (A) and I-95 (B) and north to the VRE station (C), as seen in the map below. Each of these areas would be developed with a mix of retail, commercial and residential, with the most intense development along Richmond Highway, where buildings could be 8-10 stories tall. Buildings of four to six stories are envisioned for areas B and C.

This poster shows the three areas slated for most development, with area A (Gunston Commons) along Richmond Highway and near a possible future BRT station, getting the most development. Less intense development would take place in areas B (Market Place) near I-95 and C (Lorton Town Center) near the Amtrak and VRE stations.

Less intense development is planned for three other nodes, the “Lorton Community Hub” around the new community center; “Lorton Works” along I-95, which would be “repositioned into industrial flex space and complementary on-residential;" and “Lorton South” closer to the Occoquan River, which would have infill housing and retail “to create a vibrant workplace center and gateway.”

Firth said the Lorton Task Force is looking ahead to what the area may look like in 2040. He said residents are looking for a town with gathering places where they can find food, culture and entertainment and get to know each other.

“We aren’t trying to change who lives here, but we are asking them what they want in order to stay here, to be happy living here,” he said. “Now people go to Mosaic or someplace else for entertainment, and we want them to be able to stay here and for other people to come here as well.”

“Mosaic is a model, but it is too big for here,” said Stefen Bush of the Fairfax County Planning Department. “We are going for something like Stonebridge in Woodbridge or Fairfax Corner in Fair Oaks, which are mixed-use areas where people can walk around, eat, shop and find entertainment.

Results of surveys taken at the open house will be reported back to the Task Force, which meets monthly. Anyone interested in following the progress of the plan can find Task Force meetings and sign up for emails here.

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