Lorton, in southern Fairfax County, Va., 19 miles south of the District, conjures up images of a prison with brick walls and watchtowers. That's what visitors will find when they drive onto the property but in a remarkably alluring context.
On a recent chilly morning, people were walking dogs, pushing strollers and jogging. Evergreen shrubs were speckled with snow and curtains hung behind windows.
Liberty is a new community taking shape on the 300-acre grounds of the old Lorton Reformatory, a prison from 1910 to 2001. Its development comes from a public-private partnership between Fairfax County, the Alexander Group and Elm Street Development.
"Our vision is to create a vibrant mixed-use community by adaptively re-using these historic structures. We are preserving and refurbishing the old buildings for modern day living," said Jack Perkins, vice president of Elm Street Development. "We want people to live, work and play here."
Great views: Van Metre Homes, a privately owned real estate company with communities in Virginia and West Virginia, is building 24 single-family houses and 83 townhouses. Eight single-family houses and seven townhouses are sold.
"Adaptive reuse of sites, like Lorton, provides a unique community setting," said Brian Davidson, group president of Van Metre Homes. "Rather than starting from a blank slate like other communities, Liberty has a history."
The amenities — pool, green space, clubhouse with fitness center, yoga room, bar, TV and pool table — are open. "Unlike most developments where amenities are built after homes are sold, the developer has built them up front so buyers can enjoy them as soon as they move in," he said.
Howard and Susan Becker, the first family to sign a contract, moved from Fairfax Station into a townhouse in October.
They followed the development's progress. "As soon as we saw the advertisement we made an offer, no model, sight unseen," Howard Becker said.
The townhouses are four-levels plus roof terraces. "The terrace is like a yard in the sky," said Rumana Ahmed, community sales manager for Van Metre. The Dura-deck flooring is weatherproof, maintenance free and doesn't require painting, she said.
"We can see all the way over to Maryland from our roof," Becker said.
"Open-concept living on the main level means you can cook in the kitchen, be with your family and entertain at the same time," Ahmed said. Large windows let in natural light. The entry foyer is two stories high.
"People ask us about the steps," Becker said, "and my answer is it's good exercise. People go to the fitness center to go on the stair master. I do the same thing at home."
When it came to naming the property, "Liberty" was a fitting way to think of its conversion, Perkins said.
"As we reflected on the multi-year process of planning, designing, approving and building a new community from the bones of a historic prison, we kept hitting on themes like transformation, revitalization and renaissance," he said. "Someone suggested that after being off-limits to the public for close to 100 years . . . the property itself was now being 'liberated.' "
Outdoor recreation: Laurel Hill Golf Club and Pohick Bay Golf Course are nearby. Pohick Bay Regional Park covers 1,000 acres and offers hiking, swimming, camping and kayaking. South Run Stream Valley Park has trails of varying difficulty. Mason Neck State Park is on a peninsula and bird watching is popular. Fountainhead Regional Park spreads across 2,000 acres and offers mountain bike trails, hiking and equestrian trails plus boat rentals.
Shopping: Shoppes of Lorton Valley has a Giant Food; Lorton Station Marketplace has a Shoppers; and Gunston Plaza has a Food Lion Grocery Store. Springfield Town Center is home to dozens of shops, restaurants and a cinema.
Schools: Laurel Hill Elementary, South County Middle, South County High.
Transit: Lorton is off Interstate 95 at Exit 163. Franconia-Springfield Metro station on the Blue Line is eight miles away and offers 5,069 all-day parking spaces for $4.95 per day. Fort Belvoir is eight miles away, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is 14, Alexandria is 15, Tysons Corner is 19 and Dulles International Airport is 32.
9101 Powerhouse Rd., Lorton, Va.
There will be 24 single-family houses ranging from $866,741 to $880,040 and 83 townhouses ranging from $574,990 to $649,990.
Builder: Van Metre
Features: The single-family houses are built with four-sided brick. Ceilings are 10-feet on the main living level and nine-feet on the second floor and in the basement. Hardwood floors run through the house. The kitchen is outfitted with stainless-steel GE appliances, 42-inch Fairfield cabinetry and granite counters. The four-level townhouses have rooftop terraces, two-car garages and open floor plans. Both the single-family and townhouses have eight-foot entry doors.
Bedrooms/bathrooms: 3 / 3 in the single-family houses; and 3 to 4 / 3 to 4 in the townhouses.
Square footage: 3,564 to 3,600 in the single-family houses and 2,235 to 2,754 in the townhouses.
Homeowners association fee: $195 per month for the single-family houses and $214 per month for the townhouses.
View model: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Contact: Rumana Ahmed at 703-764-5461 or vanmetrehomes.com.