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County takes key step to prepare for redevelopment of Fairfax’s Judicial Complex

Fairfax County is looking to redevelop its courthouse complex (via Fairfax County Government)

Fairfax County is considering updating its comprehensive plan to incorporate new housing and other public facilities in the Judicial Complex, a nearly 48-acre portion land surrounded by the City of Fairfax that is slated for redevelopment.

Home to the county’s circuit, general district and juvenile courts as well as the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, the county jail, and volunteer organizations, the complex underwent a master planning process that concluded in January 2021, kicking off implementation of a 20-year plan.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 11, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik directed staff to pursue a comprehensive plan amendment that allows more housing on the site.

“Since the current Compressive Plan permits only existing public uses, a plan amendment would be required to accommodate the new uses proposed in the County Judicial Complex Master Plan. Future planning and zoning processes will continue to include comprehensive stakeholder engagement,” Palchik wrote in the board matter.

The master planning process first kicked off in 2018, creating a long-term roadmap and vision for the site, which Palchik noted has potential for infill development.

Several redevelopment projects are already underway at the complex.

A 170,000-square-foot building with one level of underground parking is under construction. The building will include space for 11 programs, including commonwealth’s attorney offices and police and fire evidence storage. The design will be finalized in early 2025, followed by the completion of construction in 2027.

Entitlement of the Judicial Complex is also underway. An amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan is necessary to allow for residential and other uses that are not explicitly related to public safety.

Demolition of two wings and a sally port built behind the Historic Courthouse building is scheduled to begin in the spring. Hazmat and asbestos abatement will also begin around that time, with estimated completion by spring 2024.

So far, roughly $3 million in funding has been allocated to design building one in the complex. The next phase will involve the wings set to be demolished.

Future phases call for workforce housing at the Burkholder Administrative Center site, a new diversion and community re-entry center, the removal of the staff parking garage, hinges to the public parking garage, and other public facilities.

The project is expected to cost around $223 million — a rough estimate that is being used for future Economic Development Authority financing. Total cost estimates for each phase are still being developed, according to county budgetary documents.

The complex was home to the Massey Building, a 13-story structure that was built in 1969 and served as the main seat for the county’s government.

A population boom through the 1980s pushed the county to move to its current government center campus, turning the Massey Building into a base for the police and fire and rescue departments.

After those departments moved to the Public Safety Headquarters on the government center campus in 2017, the building was demolished in spring 2020.

“Demolition of the Massey building provided the County with an opportunity to replan the Judicial Complex,” the county’s webpage for the redevelopment plan says. “The last comprehensive master plan for the site was developed in 2002 as part of the Courthouse Expansion and Renovation project. The goal of the master plan was to consider existing development needs, while keeping in mind and planning for future uses.”

So far, areas that are the focus of redevelopment include the former Massey building site, the Historic Courthouse and surface parking lots.

Palchik noted that the plan amendment will be reviewed concurrently with zoning applications once they are submitted.