Planning process for original Mount Vernon High School set to start

The original Mount Vernon High School is located at 8333 Richmond Highway.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to have The Alexander Company and Elm Street Development create the master plan for the redevelopment of the original Mount Vernon High School.

Alexander and Elm Street will now have nine months to come up with a plan and cost estimate that meets the county’s requirements for the future of the 42-acre site, which includes the George Washington Recreation Center. The co-developers will be paid $399,000 for their work, which is the first phase of the two-phase project to redevelop the site.

“The campus is a unique asset, and today’s milestone moves us closer to making it into a vibrant hub along Richmond Highway that advances the county’s goals for economic success and social equity,” Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said in a press release.

Alexander and Elm Street’s bid was one of two for the master planning project. The two developers have worked together before on projects that required repurposing historic spaces, including the redevelopment of the old Lorton prison property.

The county is looking to transform the OMVHS property into a mixed-use development that will combine educational, recreational and non-profit uses. The historic school building, which was built in 1939 and added to over the years, will be incorporated into the final product.

The school’s location at 8333 Richmond Highway is near where one of the bus rapid transit (BRT) stations is envisioned to be located as part of the Embark Richmond Highway initiative.  Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck noted Tuesday that the school building served as a focal point for the community for decades, and said that one of the goals of redeveloping the site is to make that happen again. 

“That’s really the purpose of this master planning process,” Storck said. “How should this building, this facility be reconnected the community?”

The board vote on the master planning agreement had originally been scheduled for Jan. 23, but was deferred until Tuesday. Storck’s office said that the supervisor had some outstanding questions that have since been answered.

Part of the master planning process includes community outreach, and a county official said Tuesday that specific dates for those meetings will be announced in the coming weeks. 

The OMVHS building housed Mount Vernon High School until 1973, when it moved to its current location. Between 1973-1985 the building was used as Walt Whitman Middle School.

With school enrollments plunging in the Route 1 area in the early 1980s, the aging building was no longer needed and subsequently leased by the Islamic Saudi Academy until 2016. Since ISA’s departure it has sat largely vacant, although interim tenants such as the South County office of the Fairfax County Fire Marshall, a teen center and other county offices have opened up there. 

“This is a major milestone along our path toward restoring this facility back to the grandeur of what it was,” Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said after Tuesday’s vote. 

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