Virginia Tech Innovation Campus gets early start

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Virginia Tech’s $1.1 billion Innovation Campus’ first building will be complete in 2024.
Rendering courtesy Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech will launch its new Innovation Campus in Alexandria earlier than expected by opening a temporary space next year in an Alexandria strip mall near the campus’s future permanent location in Potomac Yard.

One of the reasons Amazon cited in locating its $5 billion HQ2 East Coast headquarters in Virginia is the state’s tech-talent pipeline initiative, of which the $1 billion Innovation Campus will be the centerpiece. The campus, which will be part of a 65-acre mixed-use development in National Landing, is set to open in about 10 years, the university says. In the meantime, Tech wants to get started enrolling students to attend classes in the temporary facility next fall.

“We are planning for about 150 full-time Innovation Campus students and  65 part-time students in the fall of 2020,” says Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe. 

The Virginia Tech Foundation filed for a special-use permit to operate classroom, marketing and laboratory space in the Potomac Yard Center on U.S. Route 1, according to the zoning permit filed with the city. The initial 17,400-square-foot start-up space is the site of a Rack Room Shoes and a former Dress Barn, and there is room to expand, says Karl Moritz, Alexandria’s director of planning and zoning. “Spaces are vacant or soon to be vacant.”

The seven-member Alexandria Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing about the permit application for Sept. 3.

Ultimately, Moritz says, the new 1-million-square-foot Innovation Campus will be built behind the shopping center, on land that is now occupied by a movie theater. In August, 175 architectural firms attended the RFP meeting to design the campus’ first building, a 300,000-square-foot academic facility expected to be complete in 2024. Stowe says the university expects to operate in the startup space until then.

The future campus site has been long marked for renovation. The new Potomac Yard Metro station is being developed on the Yellow/Blue lines at the south end of the property, which will provide mass transit service about a quarter-mile from the Innovation Campus. Amazon HQ2, with 25,000 jobs expected by 2030, will be two stops away.

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