Virginia Tech announces prime location for Innovation Campus

The campus is part of a package that attracted Amazon

By Heather Butterworth - Digital Content Producer, Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Virginia Tech will partner with Lionstone Investments to build its Innovation Campus in Alexandria as part of a new mixed-use development in National Landing, just steps away from the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station, President Tim Sands announced Monday.

The 1 million-square-foot graduate campus will be part of a 65-acre mixed-use district planned and developed by Lionstone and real estate investment trust JBG SMITH. Lionstone is a data-driven real estate investment firm that specializes in investing in U.S. locations with concentrations of highly productive jobs.

The campus’s strategic location, on 15 acres just south of the Four Mile Run stream that separates Alexandria and Arlington, positions Virginia Tech and its future partners near the nation’s capital, diverse industries, and leading tech companies, including Amazon and its HQ2 project.

“We’re extremely pleased to have this opportunity, in partnership with Lionstone, to establish the Innovation Campus in the heart of the National Landing technology district,” President Sands said. “It is the ideal location to support Virginia Tech’s bold plan to develop new tech talent, disciplines, programs, and human-centered research that will shape the economic future of the commonwealth and beyond.”

The campus will include academic classrooms, incubator space for new startups and research and development, offices for industry collaboration, and convening space for alumni events. The development plans call for public open space and ground-floor retail, knitting the campus into the fabric of Alexandria.

A new Metro station is being developed on the Yellow/Blue lines at the south end of the property, providing mass transit service roughly a quarter of a mile from the Innovation Campus. Reagan National Airport will be one Metro stop north of the site and Crystal City, and the new Amazon headquarters, will be two stops away.

“Lionstone uses analytics to identify the human capital driving economic growth, and then invests around them. Potomac Yard is an ideal location to create a sustainable mixed-use community where innovation, economic vitality, and a deep pool of technology talent can intersect and thrive,” said Lionstone President Jane Page. “We are delighted to partner with Virginia Tech to transform this area into a leading center for innovation on the East Coast while setting a new standard for anchoring a mixed-use environment with a premier educational institution.”

Virginia Tech announced plans to build the Innovation Campus in Alexandria last November as part of the tech-talent pipeline package created by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and approved by the General Assembly to attract Amazon to build its HQ2 in Northern Virginia.

“I’m very excited to know that this site will position the Innovation Campus to attract a world-class faculty to prepare students for thinking big ideas and solving problems,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). “Virginia Tech knows how to build community and support innovation and economic growth. I’m confident that this campus will help meet the demands of our digital age and grow Virginia’s economy by fueling the jobs of tomorrow and creating a generation of high-skilled workers.”

To refine and execute its vision, Virginia Tech has assembled an experienced senior leadership team to develop curricula, build partnerships and community relationships, and develop a campus location that will benefit the Alexandria community as well as Virginia Tech students and employees.

The first class of Innovation Campus master’s degree students will enroll in the fall of 2020 in existing space adjacent to where its new academic buildings will eventually be built. When complete in about 10 years, the campus will enroll 750 master’s candidates and hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

“Alexandria’s future has never been brighter,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “We are excited to deepen our partnership with Virginia Tech to bring to life a vibrant mixed-use district envisioned by our community through our local planning processes. The Innovation Campus will fuel Alexandria’s economic growth goals by attracting industry partners and driving business start-ups, and will complement the many tech-focused agencies and companies that already call our city and Northern Virginia home.”

Dennis Treacy, rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, expressed support for the location.

“Today’s announcement of the Innovation Campus location in Alexandria is both an exciting and critical milestone for Virginia Tech to meet our commitment to the tech-talent pipeline for the commonwealth,” Treacy said. “We fully support President Sands and his leadership to implement our shared vision for the future.”

While Amazon was the catalyst for Virginia Tech to build its campus now, business leaders in the Washington, D.C., area stress that the impact of the Innovation Campus will go far beyond meeting the campus’s goals to grow the tech-talent pipeline.

“What’s happening in Northern Virginia is truly transformational, and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus will be right at the heart of it,” said Glenn Youngkin, co-CEO of The Carlyle Group and a member of its Board of Directors. “Think of the possibilities—new technologies, new businesses, new markets, extraordinary new talent—all being created right here in Northern Virginia. And now, the scope of this ambition can be fully matched by this great location, which will be the home of the next global technology hub.”

Sanju Bansal, founder and CEO of Hunch Analytics and co-founder of MicroStrategy, said Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus is the missing ingredient for the regional economy.

“Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus will fill an important void in our regional economy,” Bansal said. “Local companies will improve their competitiveness by tapping into the steady stream of skilled graduates, and importantly, the campus will serve as the convener of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. It will foster collaboration across academia, government, and industry that can result in the next Googles and Amazons taking root in our own backyard.”

“We are thrilled to work with Virginia Tech and Lionstone on this momentous project,” said JBG SMITH CEO Matt Kelly. “While Amazon’s decision to locate its new headquarters at National Landing has been the catalyst for positive change, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus will be every bit as impactful by cultivating a creative workforce capable of filling all the tech jobs that will be produced throughout the D.C. region in the coming decades.”

Brandy Salmon, founding managing director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, said committing to a location is a significant milestone but also just the start of a months-long process of working with the city and Lionstone—and engaging with Alexandria residents through a series of public meetings held in conjunction with the city.

“We intend to be a great partner and that means soliciting input to make the right choices for Virginia Tech and the community,” she said. “We aren’t just thinking 10 years down the road. We are building toward a 100-year vision.”

The new campus will triple Virginia Tech’s footprint in Northern Virginia, where approximately 60,000 alumni live. The university currently maintains seven facilities throughout the region, with operations in Old Town Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, and Middleburg.

“This beautiful site provides a unique opportunity to expand our presence in the region and build a campus from the ground up,” said Dwayne Pinkney, Virginia Tech’s senior vice president of operations and administration. “We’ve made a commitment to the commonwealth and the community of Alexandria to work with civic groups and corporate and nonprofit partners to fully integrate the new Innovation Campus into the community.” 

Securing the campus location is the latest in a series of important milestones for launching the campus.

On June 3, the university’s Board of Visitors approved a resolution for the first new degree designed for the campus. And, two weeks ago, President Sands launched the search for the vice president and executive director who will lead the Innovation Campus.

Charlie Phlegar, Virginia Tech’s vice president for advancement, said he’s excited to build on the momentum created in the last few months.

“Research universities have tremendous potential to bring together students, researchers, industry, and leading technology professionals in new and creative ways,” said Phlegar, who played a key role in the development of Cornell Tech in New York City. “But we can’t do it alone. We look forward to engaging with key partners and we expect them to push us to set a high bar to create a campus that will transform the region.”  

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