- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Lorton Correctional Complex in southern Fairfax County, Va., for decades the home of the District's most dangerous felons, yesterday moved closer toward its eventual rehabilitation as the suburban community of Laurel Hill.
Virginia Reps. James P. Moran and Thomas M. Davis III joined General Services Administrator Stephen A. Perry for a tour of the complex to mark the completion of preparations to transfer ownership of the 2,700-acre tract from the federal government to Fairfax County.
"This is a model for how the federal government should divest itself of property," said Mr. Moran, a Democrat.
The first 2,000 acres of the complex, which until 1998 was run by the D.C. Department of Corrections, will be transferred to the county at the end of this year, with the remainder following next year after the last 1,300 prisoners are removed.
"This has got to be one of the things I'm proudest of accomplishing," said Mr. Davis, a Republican. "We've now closed a prison that should have been closed down decades ago."
The complex, built 20 miles from the District in 1910, was a source of fear for the suburb that rose around it. It housed as many as 9,000 inmates in its seven minimum-, medium- and maximum-security prisons, with separate facilities to house female and juvenile inmates.
Many of the complex's older dormitories were closed in the late 1980s and replaced by newer buildings. In the early 1990s, the prison was the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations and was criticized for frequent escapes and rampant drug use among inmates.
The cleanup of the complex cost the General Services Administration (GSA), the temporary landlord, $13 million, with an additional $8 million going to maintenance.
"Most of the money we had appropriated to this went to environmental cleanup," said GSA Public Buildings Commissioner F. Joseph Moravec. GSA officials said 1,000 truckloads of soil contaminated with lead-based paint and diesel fuel were removed from an unauthorized landfill and a fuel dump, along with 96 pounds of spent shell casings and 17 tear gas cannisters from the complex's three firing ranges.
About 230 acres of the tract, located just north of Silverbrook Road across from the current site of the central facility, will be developed under a plan approved in July 1999 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The plan calls for the construction of 1,500 homes, three schools, six ball fields and an 18-hole public golf course. In addition, the existing two-lane roads around the complex will be widened to four or six lanes to handle traffic demand.
Mr. Moran said development will likely increase traffic on nearby Interstate 95 but only a fraction of the volume it could have generated. Early proposals called for everything from high-rise office buildings to as many as 10,000 new homes, but residents won out in their demands that the vast majority of the land be retained for recreational purposes and open space.
Fairfax County facilitated a plan under which developer Pulte Homes will buy an 800-acre tract of land on the Mason Neck peninsula, across I-95 from the Lorton complex, and exchange it for roughly 230 acres of the federal government's property at the former prison site.
A wild horse preserve and an education center are planned for the Mason Neck land, and negotiations on a final price are ongoing.
But Lorton will not disappear entirely. A committee of state and local historic preservationists will evaluate 136 historic structures identified by the GSA for possible preservation. The other buildings can be leveled as soon as the property transfer is complete.
"I think we should let the historical society decide what has real value," Mr. Moran said. He later added, "I do think the vast majority of this prison will be razed."
Lorton was intended as a progressive institution where prisoners were expected to better themselves through hard work. Eight on-site brick kilns produced all the bricks used in the complex's construction, and a 1,200-acre dairy farm provided milk for the entire D.C. corrections system. Only one kiln remains, and the farm's 300 dairy cows were sold in 1998.

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