Redevelopment a Fairfax County priority in 2013

Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Fairfax County

Fairfax County officials hope 2013 brings new momentum to a pair of projects that are at the heart of efforts to transform the county.

In addition to the $3.1 billion transformation of Tysons Corner into a new urban downtown, the Board of Supervisors also hopes to sell businesses and developers on a multimillion-dollar mixed-use complex in Lorton and lure a major company to the soon-to-be-abandoned Exxon Mobil complex.

The $148 million Lorton project, which faces a funding shortfall of as much as $13 million, would convert the former jail site

in southern Fairfax into 41,400 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office space, a chapel and more than 350 houses

and apartments.

Much of the office space would be built at the site of former penitentiary buildings, and the county plans to renovate some of the existing guard towers for the public to tour while at the complex.

"The key really for us is to generate more revenue down there," said Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee. "We need to maximize our assets in that area."

County officials also hope the mixed-use complex would generate money to save Lorton's Workhouse Arts Center. The facility, which also sits on the former jail site, has needed millions of county dollars to keep its studios and galleries operating in recent years.

McKay said the project, made possible when the county acquired the 2,324-acre site from the federal government in 2002, was still in the preliminary stage. He said the county hopes to engage builders interested in redeveloping the site early this year.

While working to redevelop Lorton, Fairfax officials also will turn their attention to the soon-to-be vacated Exxon Mobil campus in Merrifield.

The company, which announced in June its intentions to relocate to Houston after nearly 30 years in Fairfax, is abandoning its 117-acre site and taking 2,000 employees with it beginning in 2014.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said the county views the Gallows Road location as "a perfect headquarters site" for a major corporation.

County economic development officials plan to begin courting prospects this month.

Despite their high expectations, there is still some fear among county

officials that the federal government will forcefully acquire the complex and use it to relocate thousands of employees into the suburbs -- just as it did with Fort Belvoir and the Mark Center during the BRAC relocation.

The move, possibly to accommodate a new FBI headquarters, would mean the site was no longer privately owned and therefore would take

the site off the county's tax roll -- a loss that would cost Fairfax about $2.5 million, McKay said.

Instead, officials have publicly touted a government-owned warehouse in Springfield as the ideal location for the FBI. The same location was touted as a possible BRAC site in 2008 because of its proximity to the Metro.

"Historically, when the federal government comes in, very little is done in infrastructure improvements," McKay said. "There are some major traffic issues that would need to be addressed [if the federal government seizes the building]. ... We'd like to see the property reoccupied by a private corporation."

The first county board meeting of the new year is scheduled for Jan. 8.

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