This week’s groundbreaking for the first building on the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is an important milestone for both the university and the greater Washington, D.C., area, said Vice President and Executive Director Lance Collins.

“This signature academic building will provide the space and environment for our faculty, students, and partners to collaborate and seek technology solutions to challenging societal problems,'' said Collins. “We are committed to building a technology campus that attracts and develops diverse talent and bolsters the greater Washington, D.C., metro area as one of the nation’s most innovative tech hubs.”

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said the new building will serve as a visible reminder of the university’s commitment to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Alexandria.

“It will help us develop new and diverse talent pathways, explore new models of learning and discovery, and influence technology-related policy,” Sands said. “And we look forward to integrating our campus into the fabric of Alexandria, contributing to the ideas and energy that make it such an extraordinary community.”

The campus has already served as a major connection point for Virginia Tech and industry, with Boeing recently making the largest corporate commitment ever to the university. Boeing’s $50 million investment in the campus will create scholarships, help with recruiting faculty and researchers, and fund STEM pathway programs for underserved K-12 students.

Government officials will join campus leaders and key partners at the groundbreaking, scheduled for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The event will be broadcast via a live stream that can be accessed below.

The gem-shaped building will make its home on an approximately 3.5-acre campus in the 19-acre first phase of a new mixed-use development and innovation district that JBG SMITH is developing in North Potomac Yard near the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station.

Liza Morris, Virginia Tech’s assistant vice president for planning and university architect, worked with Sasaki to create a campus master plan, and SmithGroup to design the 300,000-square-foot facility on the principles of sustainability, health and wellness, green and social spaces, accessibility, connectivity, flexibility, and integrated technology.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, an Alexandria resident, lauded the decision to build the Innovation Campus in a strategic location near the nation’s capital, Reagan National Airport, and leading tech companies, including Amazon’s HQ2.  

“This campus, because of the talent it will attract, develop, and nurture, will play a key role in ensuring that the U.S. maintains its international leadership in advancing technology,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the university’s vision unfold.”

Innovation Campus academic building rendering
Rendering of the Innovation Campus academic building.

SmithGroup used computational and generative design techniques to inform the building’s unique geometry. The form was sculpted to capture solar energy to maximize photovoltaic power generation.

Plans for the campus and building earned rave reviews from Alexandria City Council members throughout the two-year zoning and entitlement process, which included six community meetings and more than a dozen meetings with the Potomac Yard Design Advisory Committee.

The university expects to welcome students, faculty, and staff into the completed building in fall 2024. Plans call for two other campus buildings, measuring about 150,000 square feet each, to be built as the campus grows.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson praised the university and JBG SMITH for working with the city to create a project that breaks new ground for environmental sustainability and features innovative design.

“This can be an economic engine for the city and a model for future projects,” he said. “We are thrilled about Virginia Tech’s expanding presence in Alexandria.”

Innovation Campus map
The future Innovation Campus site in Alexandria.

JBG SMITH gained city approval to develop six buildings south of the campus in phase one of the North Potomac Yard redevelopment. Those buildings will offer a mix of office, retail, and residential space and include an “Innovation Building” adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus.

The open space plan for the new innovation district includes the design and construction of Potomac Yard Park, which will be managed by the city as well as the design, construction, and programming of several other plaza and green spaces on and around the Innovation Campus.

JBG SMITH CEO Matt Kelly said teaming up with Virginia Tech offered a unique opportunity for developing North Potomac Yard.

“Together we have created the framework to build something special — a vibrant district, anchored by a new Virginia Tech campus, that will become a magnet for partners who want to work with the university as well as other businesses that want to offer services to the students, faculty, and community members.”

When completed, the new academic building will provide instruction, research, office, and support spaces for graduate-level programs in computer science and computer engineering, as well as select other programs. Experiential learning environments within this building will be designed to enhance the Virginia Tech experience including flexible multipurpose areas, state-of-the-art research and testing labs, and maker spaces.

Though he’s excited for construction to begin, Vice President Collins stressed that the Innovation Campus is about more than the physical structures.

“We envision both a place and a culture – and the culture is really important,” he said. “That’s how we become a collaborative magnet for leading tech talent, research, and education that unlocks the power of diverse people and ideas.”

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