Fairfax County updates community on Original Mount Vernon High School renovation
Fairfax County officials provided an update on the Original Mount Vernon High School (OMVHS) renovation and adaptive reuse project at a June 1 community meeting held at the high school gymnasium.
Currently halfway through the design phase, the project team is planning to conduct selective interior demolition starting next month to open ceilings and walls, as well as start removing any hazardous materials to speed up the construction process, which is slated to take place from spring 2023 to spring 2025. The county eventually plans to replace and upgrade all systems in the building, make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act — including by adding another elevator in the main building — and ensure that the facility is energy efficient and sustainable.
Three primary uses or “Pathways to Opportunity” are envisioned for the facility, which county officials are referring to as a “Human Development Center.” “Core” uses for the facility include the already existing Teen and Senior Center and gym, a future early childhood facility serving as many as 172 children up to age five, and non-profit programs involved with education, workforce development and financial empowerment. “Anchor” uses include a medical skills lab operated by Northern Virginia Community College, flexible classroom space and Adult and Community Education programs run by Fairfax County Public Schools. “Complementary” uses include business incubation, culinary incubation, visual and performing arts, and a welcome center and library.
The three distinct uses for the facility will have synergy across them, according to Pallas Washington, regional manager for Neighborhood and Community Services with Fairfax County.
“It’s the totality of this that is going to bring about a better experience, more livability, more pathways toward work, learning and financial empowerment,” said Washington.
To support the facility’s “Complementary” program offerings, the county is seeking responses until June 17 to a request for information for professional community theater opportunities. County officials also recently started negotiations with Lorton-based Frontier Kitchen for an educational and entrepreneurial food-based accelerator program expected to launch in 2025, once the building is ready for occupancy.
“We think [the accelerator] will bring additional entrepreneurs; we think there’s a workforce development component here, and we think having a facility like this spurs economic activity over and above just the programming that happens here,” said Jamie Gaucher, division manager for economic innovation and strategy with the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives.
County officials are enthusiastic about the estimated $86.65 million project, which the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services says will likely be funded with Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority bonds and Virginia Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.
“This really is a big deal,” said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck. “It’s going to take us a while to get there, but we’ve got an excellent staff, and we’ve got a financial commitment of almost $100 million to go out and do all this work.”
To enable OMVHS to be used for non-school purposes, a Special Exception Amendment application has been filed. A related Planning Commission Public Hearing will take place on June 29, and the Board of Supervisors (BOS) Public Hearing will take place July 19.
The site design for the building is based on patchwork quilting, according to OMVHS’ architect and engineer consultant team. While the historic front entrance will remain intact, the county will remove two non-historic annexes on the south side of the building (#5 & #6 in graphic below) to create a new entrance and formal welcome center. The other primary entrances will be at the Teen and Senior Center and at the childcare center.
County officials are presently weighing which organizations to house at OMVHS versus at the Gerry Hyland Government Center on the opposite side of Richmond Highway. The Financial Empowerment Center and Virginia Career Works will likely move from the Hyland building to OMVHS, said Washington. Meanwhile, the Fire Marshal and Public Schools Assessment and Registration office have been relocated from an OMVHS annex to the Hyland building due to imminent construction.
Once all this phase one redevelopment work at the historic high school is complete, phase two plans for the remainder of the BOS property, including the George Washington Rec Center, will be finalized and implemented, said county officials.
Further information about the OMVHS project, including the latest community meeting presentation, are available on the county website. Community members are welcome to submit comments via the website, by contacting project coordinator Ipek Aktuglu at DPWESCAPOMVHighSchool@fairfaxcounty.gov
or by contacting Supervisor Storck’s Chief of Staff Christine Morin at firstname.lastname@example.org.