The Virginia Tech Foundation saw a Blacksburg development project reach an important milestone last month with the topping out of the six-story Gilbert Street building located along Prices Fork Road, Turner Street, and Gilbert Street in downtown Blacksburg.

The Gilbert Street building is a mixed-use building of approximately 250,000 square feet being constructed by W.M. Jordan Company, a company whose president and CEO is Virginia Tech alumnus John Lawson ’75.  

Scott Baxter, senior project manager for W.M. Jordan, said completing the topping out of the building is “such a critical milestone that allows us to begin our focus on the next stage, which is getting the building enclosed. This event also provided an opportunity for us to give thanks to the hardworking men and women who worked so hard to meet this critical milestone. It is always an honor to be part of such a great project that will benefit the Virginia Tech Foundation and the surrounding community.”

The six-story building will provide four floors of office space leased to multiple Virginia Tech departments when completed. Two floors will be dedicated to office space for Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science within the College of Engineering.

Student services also will benefit because another floor will be the home of the university’s academic excellence programs, along with an auxiliary office of Cook Counseling Center. Adding more space for Cook Counseling Center fits with the university’s commitment to increasing mental health support services.

In addition, the Office of Equity and Accessibility, the offices within the Vice President for Finance, and two units of the Office of Outreach and International Affairs—the Language and Culture Institute and the TRIO Programs—will be housed in this building after its completion.

Final beam of Gilbert St. building
The final beam of the Gilbert St. building was set in place in late September. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson, W.M. Jordan Company.

“All of us at the foundation are excited about what this project offers the town, the university, and specifically, students and faculty,” said Elizabeth McClanahan, who stepped in as the CEO of the foundation in June. “The way I like to think about this is that the Virginia Tech Foundation is the wind beneath the wings of the Hokie Bird. Our job is to support the university and its initiatives.”

The first floor of the Gilbert Street building will be dedicated to diverse retail and restaurant options both for students and residents of the community and include approximately 45,000 square feet of space. Plans for the building also include a sixth-floor rooftop restaurant and event space with a terrace overlooking the Virginia Tech campus and the surrounding mountains. In addition, there will be a 124-space underground parking garage and deck.

The Virginia Tech Foundation, a nonprofit, non-stock corporation, helps to provide financial support for Virginia Tech in various ways, including but not limited to financing student scholarships and faculty research.

Examples of the Virginia Tech Foundation’s regional impact include its ownership and management of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, which currently serves as home to more than 227 research, technology and support companies and employs more than 3,500 people; and the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia, that has allowed Virginia Tech to expand its research portfolio in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area.

The Town of Blacksburg also gains from the Gilbert Street building. The retail space offers more shopping and dining opportunities for town residents and business owners, and the space only adds to an already thriving downtown scene.

“The town is excited about the 45,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space included in the Gilbert Street building located in the north end of downtown,” Town Manager Marc Verniel said. “The rooftop restaurant will provide spectacular views of the Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, and Brush Mountain; and the new retail space will be a welcome addition to downtown Blacksburg.”

In addition, the Virginia Tech Foundation is working with the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation to develop a tribute to the history of Odd Fellows Hall — the only remaining structure from New Town, northern Blacksburg’s historic Black community — and the African American community that created it. The foundation plans to incorporate footpaths and landscaping to help guide the building’s visitors toward Odd Fellows Hall.

Officials from the Virginia Tech Foundation expect the nearly $100 million project to be ready for partial occupancy by some Virginia Tech tenants in late fall 2022. They expect full occupancy of the building to be available in summer 2023.

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