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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

New Arrivals Revamp Potomac Yards

New+Arrivals+Revamp+Potomac+Yards

Virginia Tech and Amazon Prompt Development in Alexandria

Abigail St. Jean and Maddie Kysilko

In the ever-changing City of Alexandria, the arrival of Amazon has prompted the redevelopment of many local areas. One of the biggest projects is Potomac Yard, a commercial and residential area in the northeast corner of Alexandria. This redevelopment will include a new Virginia Tech campus, the construction of a metro station, and expansion of office, retail, and recreational spaces. 

By far the biggest of these developments is the new Virginia Tech graduate school campus, called the Innovation Campus. The new campus will replace the Potomac Yard Regal Cinema, which sits behind the shopping center on the northern end of the neighborhood. 

Although the Innovation Campus is a new addition to Northern Virginia, Virginia Tech already has an established presence in the region. The school has five buildings in Old Town belonging to the graduate school of architecture, which have been running since the 1980s. 

Virginia Tech has been looking to expand further into Alexandria for a while. The opportunity for expansion arose when the Amazon headquarters bid was announced in September 2017. Amazon would need a tech pipeline and a talent pool for computer science and computer engineering in its new location. In response, the state of Virginia asked its public universities to develop an idea for a campus that could be put in Northern Virginia, serving as the pipeline for talent that Amazon needed, to help Virginia win the bid. 

The plan proved successful, and Northern Virginia was selected from a pool of 238 communities for the new Amazon headquarters, which will be built in Crystal City. This set in motion plans for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, a billion dollar graduate campus. 

Prototype of the new Virginia Tech Campus located at National Landing courtesy of BDG

The first step in the construction process is prepping the location. According to the Innovation Campus website, the campus will include 300,000 square feet for academics and research and 250,000 square feet for space that Virginia Tech calls “partner space dedicated to startups and corporate facilities.” All buildings will range from 85 to 150 feet tall, or about 7-8 to 10-12 stories. 

In addition to academic spaces, the campus also dedicated 350,000 square feet to housing and 100,000 square feet to “retail and support spaces.” Construction on the building is expected to start in December 2020. Classes at the campus are expected to begin in 2024. 

Masters and doctorate programs will be offered at the campus. Degrees will concentrate on STEM fields, such as computer science and computer engineering. 

In addition to benefiting graduate students, the new campus is also discussing possible partnerships with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS). This proposed collaboration would be dealt with through the ACPS High School Project, an initiative to better serve high school students through both education and campus location. 

Virginia Tech Innovation Campus Mock Up/Model.

The campus, due to its proximity to a major metro area and location between Potomac Yard, Crystal City, and Pentagon City, will be called a “National Landing Site.” It will bring more jobs and economic opportunities to Alexandria, which will grow the regional economy. The Innovation Campus will also serve as an engine of workforce development for Virginia and the new Amazon Headquarters. 

However, the Innovation Campus also ushers in some residential sacrifices. Potomac Yard Civic Association Representative Amol Vaidya said that there will be increased traffic issues, initially due to heavy construction, and later due to population influx; however, these changes are not unexpected for residents. Since this development has been in preparation since the 2010s, Vaidya said that residents knew that they “bought into a neighborhood that was brand new and now changing.” 

Despite these side effects, the Virginia Tech team is excited about the new campus. 

Virginia Tech recently announced that Lance R. Collins will take over as the Innovation Campus’s vice president and executive director. David Baker, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations, said, “[We are] excited to build on the legacy we have here in Northern Virginia.” 

“The most important thing we need to do is set us up for decades to come,” said Ryan Touhill, Chief of Staff Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. 

Another change expected to arrive at Potomac Yards is the construction of a new Metro station. The $320 million station is expected to be completed in 2022. It will run on the Yellow and Blue Lines and be located between Braddock Road Metro Station and Ronald Reagan National Airport Station.

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New Arrivals Revamp Potomac Yards