Innovation Campus site plan met with community support
The proposal shows abundant green space bordering three campus buildings and a high priority on pedestrian open space.
Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus will make its home in three academic buildings as part of the first phase of a new North Potomac Yard mixed-use development in Alexandria, according to a Concept 1 site plan filed this month with the city.
The plan was met with support from City Council and the Planning Commission at a work session Tuesday. Two days later, dozens of interested community members attended a public meeting in Alexandria where Virginia Tech, Lionstone Investments, and JBG Smith representatives shared updates and answered questions about the project.
“Filing this initial site plan is an exciting milestone because it allows more people to visualize Virginia Tech’s bold vision for the campus,” said Brandy Salmon, managing director of the Innovation Campus. “We look forward to working with our partners, Lionstone and JBG Smith, and being a part of a dynamic district. We believe our new campus will serve as a magnet for talent, research, and innovation and catalyze the larger project.”
Virginia Tech announced plans for the new campus one year ago, as part of the state’s successful bid to attract Amazon to the region. The decision to build the campus as a portion of a 65-acre innovation district being developed by Lionstone near the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station was announced in June 2019.
The concept plans for phase 1 of the development — 15 acres on the east side of Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard — were submitted to the City of Alexandria on Nov. 1.
Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect, is working with Sasaki, a Boston-based architecture firm, to develop the master plan for the campus.
“We want to establish a vibrant sense of place, a place where creativity and collaboration can flourish,” Morris said. “It’s critical to the success of the Innovation Campus and the broader innovation district.”
The plans show abundant green space bordering the campus buildings and a pedestrian plaza connecting them together.
The site will be broken into 10 blocks, according to the concept plan. The Innovation Campus will be located on about four acres at the northern end, near Alexandria’s border with Arlington County. The other seven buildings will house office, residential, and ground-level retail space.
Access is a key asset of the district. A new Metro station is being developed on the yellow/blue lines at the south end of the property.
The university expects to name the architectural and engineering firm for its initial 300,000-square-foot academic building next month.
“Engagement is core to the mission of the Innovation Campus, and the academic building is envisioned to be a part of an engagement ecosystem, providing spaces to connect Virginia Tech with its partners and community,” according to the Request for Proposal issued last summer. “The academic building is to be designed to offer moments of surprise, delight, and creativity.”
Construction of the first academic building is scheduled for completion in 2024. Following it will be the two other buildings, measuring about 150,000 square feet each, according to the plan filed with the city.
When fully operational, Virginia Tech’s new campus will graduate 750 master’s degree students per year and host more than 100 doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows. The Innovation Campus will support groundbreaking new programs and human-centered research — shaping the high-tech disciplines of the future.
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.
Morris and other Virginia Tech leaders have been brainstorming ideas about the businesses and services that could be located at the new Potomac Yard development to create a livable district for Innovation Campus students and employees and the Alexandria community. A group of 10 graduate students, called the Innovation Fellows, also are weighing in on the plans.
It will take a year to complete the zoning and permit process for the site. A Concept 2 site plan will be filed early next year, and more public meetings will be held.