Developer Toll Brothers on Monday partnered with the Loudoun Freedom Center to promote a 108-acre development application to build up to 1,346 apartments and townhouses, including some that are age-restricted; 4 acres of retail space; and a 4-acre addition to the Loudoun Freedom Center’s property at the Belmont Cemetery for the Enslaved.
The development, at the southeast quadrant of the Rt. 7/ Belmont Ridge Road interchange, abuts 2.75 acres of land deeded to the Loudoun Freedom Center in 2017 when a burial ground for enslaved people was found there. That land now is the site of the African American Burial Ground for the Enslaved at Belmont, which has since become one of Loudoun’s most notable memorials of the history of Black people in the area.
The additional land is intended to allow Loudoun Freedom Center to expand its facilities near the burial ground and build a Freedom Trail Museum.
“We are excited to partner with Toll Brothers to help us realize our vision for this important historical site,” stated Michelle Thomas, Loudoun NAACP president and co-founder of the Loudoun Freedom Center. “With this Toll Brothers donation of additional land to expand our operations, the Loudoun Freedom Center will be able to not only preserve our history, but to share our story and educate others in our community for generations to come.”
The Loudoun Freedom Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and memorializing historic Black heritage sites, burial grounds, and communities across Loudoun County.
The developer also proposes centrally located parkland—an illustration submitted to the county appears to show a little under two acres—preserving some trees and streams on the property, and shared use trails open to the public. And the developer is offering to build a missing link of Russell Branch Parkway, finishing the connection of Belmont Ridge Road to Claiborne Parkway and providing a south parallel road to part of Rt. 7.
According to Toll Brother, the development is named for Margaret Mercer, an abolitionist and educator who purchased the property in 1836. She commissioned the construction of Belmont Chapel, “where African Americans were educated alongside whites,” according to the historical marker on the site, and is best known for “advocating the liberation of enslaved African Americans.”
“We will be honored to include this donation of land to the Loudoun Freedom Center as part of our plans for this incredible development,” stated Eric Anderson, division president of Toll Brothers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. “Mercer Crossing will provide much needed housing, retail and open space for the community, while preserving and enhancing the important history of this land in partnership with Pastor Michelle and the Loudoun Freedom Center.”
Much like Rivana at Innovation Station, an ongoing rezoning application for a 103-acre development nearon Metro’s Silver Line, at least one county supervisor who will vote on the development proposal already is doing publicity for the developer.
“The initial plans for the Toll Brothers Mercer Crossing development incorporating a vital and unique cultural feature reflecting a largely untold chapter of Loudoun County history are innovative and exciting,” stated Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). “The extensive shared-use path network and robust affordable and workforce housing included in the project are especially important and prove once again why Toll Brothers is such a strong community partner.”