Workhouse Arts Center vision expanding for restaurant, brewer or other small business

Sitting off busy Ox Road (Route 123), in buildings that were built in the 1920s and 1930s and part of the District of Columbia’s Lorton Reformatory, is one of the many ideas that sprang from community input when the prison closed in 2001: the Workhouse Arts Center. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved rezoning 55 acres of the 2,400-acre prison site for an arts complex, and the Workhouse opened to the public in 2008. Eleven historic buildings have been repurposed for the present-day arts and entertainment campus.

The Workhouse Arts Center presently consists of artist studio buildings, galleries, dance studios, music rooms, classroom space, outdoor performance and event space, and a theater. More than 100 professional and emerging artists are supported at the Workhouse by being provided with affordable studios and galleries in which to exhibit their work.

Now the county wants to expand activities at the Workhouse to include a restaurant, brewery or other small business. Opportunities are available to lease two vacant buildings on the Workhouse Campus. Located at 9514 and 9517 Workhouse Way, the two buildings, at 4,500 square feet each, will be renovated and available this fall.

Rendering of the project. (Photo courtesy of Fairfax County government)

The county has issued a request for information (RFI) for the use and occupancy of one or both renovated buildings and seeks interested parties to establish and operate restaurants, craft beverage productions, tasting rooms or other uses that will contribute to the enhancement and activation of the campus. Also, to support placemaking goals on the Workhouse campus, the project includes natural landscaping and site enhancements in a shared courtyard and streetscape improvements along Ox Road.

The overall campus vision is to establish a unique, widely recognized destination of choice, providing dynamic and engaging arts, cultural, educational and community-building experiences with unique economic development opportunities. Route 123 is an important commuter route two miles from Interstate 95. The Workhouse campus is surrounded by residential communities and close to recreation areas and historic sites.

“This is an exciting opportunity for new partners to join the vibrant Workhouse community and continue the placemaking that the county began over a decade ago,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Daniel G. Storck (Mount Vernon District). “With the ongoing growth in recreation, businesses, amenities and neighborhoods in the Lorton area, this unique historic, adaptive reuse site provides a highly valuable location for restaurants and retail operations.”

The Workhouse offers more than 800 arts education classes and workshops in a broad spectrum of art disciplines. Each year the Workhouse Arts Center provides more than 100 exhibitions, 300 performances, and multiple large-scale community events for the region, including community farm markets, drive-in movies, fireworks, brewfest and the annual Mount Vernon Days.

The project area is circled in red. (Map courtesy of Fairfax County government.)

The Workhouse Campus, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, anchors the northern end of the NOVA Arts and Cultural District that was created in 2017 with Occoquan Regional Park and the Town of Occoquan. In connection with the National Historic Preservation Act, the federal government entered into a legally binding memorandum of agreement with Fairfax County and other interested parties to preserve the historically significant buildings and structures on the campus in a manner that favors adaptive reuse.

The Workhouse Arts Center is operated by the Workhouse Arts Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

Questions regarding the Requests for Expressions of Interest (RFI) may be submitted by email to WorkhouseCampus@fairfaxcounty.gov. Questions must be made on behalf of a prospective respondent and must include the requestor’s name, email or mailing address, telephone number and the name of the prospective partner. Click here for more information.

Click here for a fact sheet on the Request for Expressions of Interest issued by Fairfax County for two buildings at the Workhouse Arts Center.


California company wins Fairfax County competition on bicycle and pedestrian safety

Smart City Works and Fairfax County, in partnership with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), announced the winner of “Pitch and Pilot: Fairfax County Innovation Challenge,” an innovation competition where teams and companies proposed high-impact solutions to address bicycle and pedestrian safety. The goal of the Challenge was to find, and ultimately pilot, innovative solutions to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in Fairfax County’s increasingly multimodal transportation landscape.

The winner: Altadena, Calif.-based Street Simplified. Smart City Works said the winning team was selected based on innovation, practicality, scalability, safety, and equity and inclusivity of their solution, and will be considered to implement a pilot of their solution in Fairfax County.

“Fairfax County has invested more than $536 million in federal, state, and local funding to upgrade bicycle, trail, and pedestrian and bus stops. One accident or one pedestrian fatality is too many and we hope by harnessing innovative technology like the ones in this competition, we will be able to improve safety for all county residents,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay.

“Fairfax County’s innovation initiative is not only going to help save lives locally, but will help nationally, as well,” said David Heyman, founder of Smart City Works. “The coronavirus pandemic has substantially altered how people travel—bike-riding is up, automobile usage is down, leading to less road congestion, but also faster driving speeds, and unfortunately more crashes. Smart City Works is pleased to partner with Fairfax County to help find innovative solutions to tackle this problem.”

Click here to learn more about the Challenge.


Smart City Works receives $1.9M grant

Smart City Works, with partners Washington, D.C. ArchAngels and Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), received a new grant award supporting the Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative. The Virginia Growth and Opportunity State Board (GO Virginia) approved the $1.9 million grant.

With the GO Virginia grant, Smart City Works will fill support high-growth, technology start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Virginia to accelerate their growth and create commercialization pathways to spur near- and long-term economic development. Smart City Works said its goal with the grant funds is to strengthen and diversify Northern Virginia’s economic-development portfolio, enhance its long-term job-creating power, and put it on a more-competitive footing as a regional technology leader and global destination for tech companies, entrepreneurs, and high-skilled talent relative to other global technology clusters.

“We are looking forward to continue to build on our innovation ecosystem with the GOVA grant and work with our partners in government, universities, businesses, and nonprofits, to help make Northern Virginia one of our nation’s crown jewels for innovation and economic growth,” said Carola Mandelbaum, executive director of Smart City Works.

This project represents a broad partnership across the region of academic, business, and government organizations aligned to foster greater economic development and technology innovation in Northern Virginia.  They include the counties of Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford, the cities of Fairfax and Manassas, the towns of Herndon and Vienna as well as AWS, Virginia Tech, Venture Labs, Pillsbury Law, EAEC Council, the CIT and Washington DC Arch Angels. In kind and/or cash commitments from these partners represent 35 percent match of the total project budget.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Smart Cities Initiative. This initiative promises to attract new businesses to locate in the smart urban technology cluster here in Northern Virginia and help them grow and scale. Projects like these are important to the economic growth and diversification of start-ups in our region, particularly after the challenges of the pandemic,” said Sid Banerjee, chair of the GO Virginia Region 7 Council.

Click here to learn more about The Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative.

April 29, 2021