The Washington Post

Vir­ginia Tech

In­no­va­tion space will be built in Po­tomac Yard, closer to Ama­zon of­fices

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picked a site closer to Ama­zon’s new head­quar­ters for its In­no­va­tion Cam­pus, in Po­tomac Yard.

Vir­ginia Tech will build its new In­no­va­tion Cam­pus in Alexan­dria’s Po­tomac Yard, just south of Four Mile Run along the Metro tracks, as part of a 65-acre mixe­duse de­vel­op­ment, the school plans to an­nounce Mon­day.

The new lo­ca­tion will put the $1 bil­lion cam­pus a half-mile closer to the new Ama­zon head­quar­ters in the Crys­tal City and Pen­tagon City neigh­bor­hoods of Ar­ling­ton County. The school had pre­vi­ously in­di­cated it would build its mil­lion-square-foot cam­pus at Oakville Tri­an­gle, a 20-acre site along Rich­mond High­way filled with ware­houses. But that prop­erty did not leave enough room for the school to grow, univer­sity and city of­fi­cials said.

“We don’t need 65 acres our­selves, but we need to be able to place part­ners near us as part of an ecosys­tem,” Vir­ginia Tech Pres­i­dent Tim Sands said. “This does give us el­bow room.”

The cam­pus, which was part of Vir­ginia’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pitch that lured Ama­zon to lo­cate its se­cond North Amer­i­can head­quar­ters in North­ern Vir­ginia, plans to grad­u­ate about 1,500 mas­ter’s de­gree stu­dents and 250 doc­toral stu­dents when com­pleted. They will join about 60,000

Vir­ginia Tech alumni who live in the Wash­ing­ton area. (Ama­zon chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

The school will oc­cupy about 15 acres be­tween Four Mile Run and the movie the­ater, just east of Po­tomac Av­enue against the Metro­rail line. The re­main­ing 50 acres, which con­tain the Po­tomac Yard shop­ping cen­ter, will be re­de­vel­oped into 7.5 mil­lion square feet of of­fices, mul­ti­fam­ily hous­ing, re­tail and ho­tel uses, said of­fi­cials with Hous­ton-based Lion­stone In­vest­ments. The com­pany man­ages the prop­erty in part­ner­ship with JBG Smith for its owner, an uniden­ti­fied pen­sion fund.

Sands and Lion­stone, which has built mixed-use projects around uni­ver­si­ties else­where, said one of the ad­van­tages of the site is that they will be cre­at­ing a new cam­pus and com­mu­nity from “scratch,” with ex­pen­sive roads, rail and bus sys­tems in place.

“It will be a new ur­ban place, a new al­most-down­town for the area,” said Bai­ley Jones, a Lion­stone vice pres­i­dent. “We have a ton of faith that Vir­ginia Tech will do re­ally well here.”

Grad­u­ate stu­dents, who will ar­rive in fall 2020, will ini­tially be taught in one of the soon-to-be va­cant, big-box re­tail sites in the shop­ping cen­ter, said Brandy Salmon, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the In­no­va­tion Cam­pus, while the aca­demic build­ing is be­ing con­structed over the next sev­eral years.

The site will ini­tially house one aca­demic build­ing, with a se­cond to be added; an in­cu­ba­tor space for start-ups, re­search and de­vel­op­ment; of­fices for in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tion, and a park­ing garage. Pub­lic open space and ground­floor re­tail also is planned. The area is zoned for high-den­sity mixed uses, but res­i­dents will be consulted through sev­eral pub­lic meet­ings start­ing soon, of­fi­cials said.

The cam­pus will be about a quar­ter-mile from the north­west en­trance of the new Po­tomac Yard Metro sta­tion, which de­spite a $50 mil­lion in­vest­ment from the state, may not have enough money to build a south­west en­trance, ac­cord­ing to a memo that City Man­ager Mark B. Jinks sent 10 days ago to a city work­ing group.

The re­moval of that en­trance last year dur­ing an­other fis­cal crunch, prompted out­rage from ci­ti­zens and busi­nesses lo­cated near it. The $50 mil­lion, an­nounced in Novem­ber, was sup­posed to solve that prob­lem, but the cheap­est con­struc­tion op­tion is now $75 mil­lion. The Po­tomac Yard Metro­rail Im­ple­men­ta­tion Work Group will as­sess the op­tions at a Mon­day night meet­ing and make rec­om­men­da­tions to the City Coun­cil this month.

The state is pro­vid­ing $250 mil­lion for the grad­u­ate school cam­pus, which will be matched by Vir­ginia Tech. Fundrais­ing is ex­pected to pro­vide the rest of the money. The con­struc­tion timetable de­pends on fundrais­ing, but of­fi­cials ex­pect to start at the end of this year.

As a state ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion, Blacks­burg-based Vir­ginia Tech does not pay prop­erty taxes on land it owns. But it will lease most of the space, said Stephanie Lan­drum, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Alexan­dria Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Part­ner­ship, and its pres­ence is ex­pected to be “a cat­a­lyst” for de­vel­op­ment.

“The good news for Alexan­dria is, in­ter­est in this mar­ket has sky­rock­eted since the Ama­zon an­nounce­ment,” she said, in­clud­ing for the Oakville Tri­an­gle prop­erty. “As a city, we eval­u­ated this trade­off, al­low­ing a small por­tion to go off the tax rolls in re­turn for a long-term com­mit­ment . . . . Typ­i­cally, we’re talk­ing about 15-year leases. Here, we’re talk­ing about some­one who is go­ing to build an eco­nomic en­gine that is com­mit­ting to 100 years in our city.”

Other busi­ness lead­ers who have consulted on the cam­pus agree.

The ex­pan­sion of Vir­ginia Tech in North­ern Vir­ginia will turn it into a “cen­ter of grav­ity for tech in­no­va­tion” that can “get the fly­wheel spin­ning” to cre­ate a world-class tech hub here, said Glenn Youngkin, the co-chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Car­lyle Group.

“Over the last 20 to 25 years, it’s been in­cred­i­bly frag­mented and be­cause it’s been frag­mented, that’s why North­ern Vir­ginia did not take its place in tech lead­er­ship,” Youngkin said. “North­ern Vir­ginia had its chance, but it didn’t hap­pen. The ecosys­tem didn’t get kicked into play the way it did in Bos­ton around MIT and Har­vard.”

“The num­ber one risk is to think small, not big,” Youngkin said. The school’s im­me­di­ate need is to hire lead­ers and fac­ulty of an in­ter­na­tional cal­iber who can build on the school’s core strengths in science and en­gi­neer­ing, he added.

Sanju Bansal, founder of Hunch An­a­lyt­ics and co-founder of Mi­croS­trat­egy, said in all the tech start-ups he has worked with, founders have to im­port most of their en­gi­neer­ing tal­ent, and even now, “we’re nowhere near the level of a Bos­ton or Sil­i­con Val­ley.”

“It would be nice to have a se­ri­ous school of en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy here,” he said. “It will have the ef­fect of rais­ing the tech flu­ency in the re­gion . . . . We need to be a world thought leader that can kick out stu­dents who can build a prod­uct.”

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