Newsletter

With the groundbreaking of the first of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus buildings, Alexandria took a step into a new future on Tuesday.

Governor Ralph Northam joined top brass from Virginia Tech, Boeing, master architect JBG Smith and hundreds of visitors at the groundbreaking for a state-of-the-art 300,000 square-foot building. He said that, when completed, the academic buildings will be places “where academia, government and industry connect working to solve problems through technology.”

Virginia Tech plans on opening the first of three academic buildings in 2024, and the school anticipates teaching computer science research and development programs to 750 master’s degree students when the project is completed in ten years.

Mayor Justin Wilson thanked City Manager Mark Jinks and his staff, as well as the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, which was integral in bringing Amazon’s HQ2 project to the region.

We are so excited that so much of the plans that we have shaped for really a quarter of a century are coming to fruition on this site,” Wilson said. “But, ultimately, it’s not about the buildings. The buildings will be amazing, and we’re really excited about that. It’s the people that will be in the buildings and the people who will leave those buildings, and we are so excited to see the embodiment of this vision come to reality in the buildings here in the city of Alexandria.”

Tara Laughlin is studying for her Master’s degree in computer science at the Innovation Campus, and is one of seven Boeing graduate scholars. Boeing also gave the campus a $50 million gift.

I want to make a difference in the field that I work in, but I honestly just didn’t know where to start,” Laughlin said. “The Innovation Campus answered everything that I’d wanted.”

Matt Kelly, the CEO of JBG Smith, the master developer of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, said that the future looks bright for Potomac Yard.

“When we began courting Amazon alongside the Commonwealth to make Northern Virginia home to HQ2, one of the main points of attraction that they had to the D.C. region was our strong base of tech talent,” he said. “Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus brings that right next door, and delivers on a future of diversifying our economy and broadening that talent base for many decades to come.”

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A new luxury condominium community in Potomac Yard has reportedly sold 30% of its properties — without any of its 138 units yet built.

The FORTIS Companies of Washington, D.C. owns the Dylan property, and is selling one-to-three bedroom condos for between $600,000 and $1.2 million. The condos have been designed by Lessard Design International of Vienna and Akseizer Design Group in Alexandria, and will be built next year. In the meantime, interested buyers can see a fully-sized model at their sales gallery at 2316 Richmond Highway.

Over the next several years, Potomac Yard will completely transform into a bustling commercial district home to a new Metro station, the massive Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and a revamped shopping center — all next door to Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

The new Dylan development will be located adjacent to Potomac Yard Park.

“As we anticipated, the excitement around Amazon’s HQ2 and Virginia Tech is generating strong interest in Dylan,” said FORTIS Vice President Matt Bunch. “Dylan’s convenient, walkable location is a big draw. It is just a five-minute walk to the new Potomac Yard Metro Station opening early next year, which will connect residents to Regan National Airport just one stop away. Residents also will have walkable access to a variety of new shops, restaurants, employment centers, and recreational options within Potomac Yard and on Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.”

Bunch continued, “We recognize that many residents will appreciate the option of working from home, so we ensured that 80 percent of Dylan’s plans include generously sized dens or home offices. Dylan also will feature an onsite business center for those residents who want to meet clients, take calls privately, or just get some work done outside of their homes.”

Courtesy The FORTIS Companies 

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Amazon is planning to install one of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores at the former Shoppers supermarket at Potomac Yard, according to documents obtained by the Washington Business Journal.

The 50,000-square foot space is the sixth potential location for Amazon Fresh throughout the region, and Total Wine has also reportedly made moves to open next door at the former Pier 1 Imports, which closed more than a year ago.

The Amazon Fresh pick-up and delivery service will be located next to the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and about a mile-and-a-half away from Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

Potomac Yard is managed by JBG Smith Properties and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which are both overseeing a massive mixed-use development of the area.

Amazon itself did not file the documents with the city, according to WBJ. Instead, Canadian architect NORR made the filing for “Mendel,” which is reportedly an Amazon code word.

Photo via Google Maps

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JBG Smith, the master master developer for Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, just signed a deal to design, construct, manage and own 2 million square feet of mix-used property at Potomac Yard.

“Institutional investors advised by (project financial manager) J.P. Morgan Global Alternatives contributed a land site that is entitled for approximately 1.3 million square feet of development it controls at Potomac Yard Landbay F (North Potomac Yard), while JBG SMITH contributed adjacent land with more than 700,000 square feet of development capacity at Potomac Yard, Landbay G (the Town Center),” JBG Smith said in a release.

JBG Smith has a 50% ownership stake in the joint venture, and will act as leasing agent for future residential and commercial properties at the site. The move increases the company’s ownership development rights by more than 285,000 square feet.

“The plans call for two multifamily buildings totaling approximately 419,000 square feet that have been placed in JBG SMITH’s Near-Term Development Pipeline and could start construction within the next 12 months,” JBG Smith said. “The remaining 1.6 million square feet of mixed-use development across Landbays F and G is expected to be developed over time and, consequently, are included in the Future Development Pipeline.”

“We are thrilled that this joint venture will further the community’s collective long-term vision of National Landing as a thriving, transit-oriented, mixed-use destination and world-class innovation district,” said Ed Chaglassian, executive vice president and head of acquisitions at JBG SMITH. “This transaction will help ensure that the surrounding neighborhoods can grow in lockstep with Virginia Tech in ways that will complement and enhance its Innovation Campus.”

Virginia Tech plans on opening its four-acre Innovation Campus by fall 2024. Additionally, the Potomac Yard Metro station is expected to open by spring 2022. It is also located a mile south of National Landing, the future home of Amazon’s HQ2 project at National Landing, which is slated for a 2028 completion.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Tech Innovation Campus gets $50M commitment from Boeing — “Boeing’s multi-year gift will help the campus provide scholarships to students and recruit faculty to the Innovation Campus.” [Patch]

Coalition launches video series to encourage youth to be alcohol free — “The Substance Abuse and Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) has launched a prevention campaign featuring a series of short videos created by T.C. Williams High School students that encourage youth to be alcohol free.” [City of Alexandria]

Chamber ALX announced 40 Under 40 honorees — “We are looking forward to celebrating these individuals at our 40 Under 40 Awards celebration, presented by Beyer Subaru, on July 15.” [Chamber ALX]

Alexandria-based podcast breaks boundaries and builds connections — “Two local women start a podcast to tackle tough issues and find community and transformation along the way.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Commission on Persons With Disabilities seeking award nominees — “The Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities is seeking nominees for various awards and a scholarship.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Thunderstorms likely (during the day). Gusty winds and small hail are possible. High near 75F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 48F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary environmental educator — “In pursuit of service excellence, the Recreation Leader II/Environmental Educator will greet and assist Nature Center patrons; deliver impromptu programs for visitors; conduct nature-based programming; assist in the care of the Nature Center’s live animals and plants; and support the administrative needs of the organization. The candidate will work under the supervision of the Recreation Leader IV. This position is located at the Jerome ‘Buddie’ Ford Nature Center, 5750 Sanger Avenue in Alexandria, VA 22311.” [Indeed]

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An urban design student at Alexandria’s Virginia Tech campus is gathering some local feedback on the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

The memorial — as longtime readers may remember from our short-lived local trivia series — was constructed in 1932 and was inspired by the Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

In the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook group, design student Shelby Pollack asked for opinions about the memorial as part of a broader study of memorials throughout the region.

“I am an Urban Design student at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria Campus (WAAC) and am trying to gather information about what locals think of the Masonic Temple Memorial,” Pollack wrote. “I would love to hear any opinions that you have in the comments, or if you have a few minutes to fill out this survey I would greatly appreciate it!”

The survey asks locals if they’ve visited the memorial, how they get there, and a few other questions about their experience there.

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In the latest Agenda Alexandria conversation, local business and civic leaders came together to discuss the highs and lows of the recently proposed City Manager’s budget.

The budget included a proposed tax rate reduction, but City Council candidate Bill Rosssello challenged the overly sunny narrative about the reduction.

“I look at the budget the way it’s been presented and something that always seems to concern me is when we lead with a narrative around the tax rate,” Rossello said. “The tax rate is only one part of the equation for the actual taxes that people pay… While we’re looking at a proposed 2 cent tax rate decrease, when you do the math, for the average household it comes out to be almost a 6% tax increase in real dollars and that’s what really matters to residents: how much more or how much less am I going to pay?”

Rossello was joined on the panel by Rob Krupicka, former City Council member and Delegate and owner of Elizabeth’s Counter, and Janet Blair Fleetwood, Secretary of the Budget & Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s representative on Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee (BFAAC).

The group discussed the current imbalance between the residential and commercial tax bases, which has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“Back in 2009, we used to get 30.5% of revenue from commercial, said Fleetwood. “It is now 21.3%. We have a good situation here, with Virginia Tech’s Innovation area coming in, Amazon, the Patent office, the National Science Foundation, and Landmark. We should start looking to grow businesses that will come in and bring good jobs and use commercial real estate.”

Fleetwood said there has been talk that post-pandemic, companies may not want to use commercial real estate as they did before, but Fleetwood said she has also heard from companies that they will still need physical footprints for team projects.

“I don’t think commercial footprint is going away,” Fleetwood said.

Krupicka noted that questions about the balance between residential revenue and commercial revenue may fundamentally change post-pandemic.

“The balance between residential revenues and commercial revenue… there are fundamental shifts happening right now that make that an old debate,” Krupicka said. “People are working from home now, and you’re going to see a lot of businesses that don’t go back to commercial office when COVID ends.”

Krupicka said one of the larger concerns is that small business have to compete against larger companies like Amazon and pay taxes those companies don’t.

“Small businesses are competing against Amazon and large internet companies,” Krupicka said. “There is big international competition that pays a lot less taxes than small mom and pop. Small mom and pop has to pay BPOL tax… small businesses like mine are writing checks to government, but doing it in the hole. If you broke even on COVID, you’re paying on gross receipts, not profits.”

Krupicka said Amazon pays retail taxes, which benefits the city, but in general pays less on taxes per transaction than small restaurants or retailers.

“We need to have conversation about if we want small businesses to be at a disadvantage tax wise,” Krupicka said.

On the other side, Rossello said the burden on residential taxpayers has grown considerably and is pushing people out of Alexandria.

“We’ve taxed out so many middle class folks, who can afford to pay decent mortgage or rent, but find it more affordable to leave,” Rossello said. “We’ve seen whole neighborhoods turn over from diverse middle class neighborhoods to gentrified neighborhoods where houses on very small lots are $1.5 million dollars.”

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It was a cold week in Alexandria.

With bits of snow and temperatures hovering at around freezing, our top story this week was on Allison Priebe, the local business owner who was robbed while pumping gas in Old Town. Police later released suspect photos and advise anyone pumping gas to keep their keys with them and lock their vehicles.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 9,903 cases and no new deaths, which is an increase of about 150 cases since Monday’s report. Meanwhile, as the city contends with a growing vaccine waiting list, the Health Department is warning residents of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

More than 260 people participated in our weekly poll. This week we asked about voting in the upcoming City Council and mayoral elections, and 87% plan on voting in the primary and general election; 6% only plan on voting in the primary; 5% aren’t voting and 1% will only vote in the primary.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories this week:

Here are our top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Local Business Owner Robbed of Car While Pumping Gas at Old Town Gas Station
  2. BREAKING: Large Power Outage Reported in Old Town
  3. ACPS Releases Semifinalist Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School Renaming
  4. Just In: ‘QAnon Shaman’ from Capitol Siege Transferred to Alexandria Jail
  5. Poll: What Do You Think of the Proposed Heritage Development in Old Town
  6. Mayor: Brace Yourselves, It Could be End of Summer Before City Moves into Next Vaccine Phase
  7. BREAKING: Councilman Mo Seifeldein Running for Alexandria Mayor, Hatch Act Conflict in Question
  8. Alexandria Sheriff: Jailed ‘QAnon Shaman’s’ Organic Food Request is Normal
  9. Just In: James Lewis Files Paperwork to Enter City Council Race
  10. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  11. City Councilman’s Virtual Super Bowl Party Ambushed by Racists and Nazi Trolls

Photo via Alexandria Police

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New York-based multinational investment firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. has taken over financial management of the massive Potomac Yard redevelopment from Texas-based Lionstone Investments.

But even though the Washington Business Journal broke the story on Feb. 11, sources familiar with the 20-acre project say that the transition was made more than a year ago and will have no impact on development, which includes Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus that is slated for completion in 2024.

“Not sure why the article is coming out now as the change happened over a year ago and has had no impact on the project,” Cathy Puskar, an attorney with property developer JBG Smith, told ALXnow. “…(E)verything proceeded on time and according to plan.”

JBG Smith and JPMorgan Chase broke ground on the Virginia Tech development last month with the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater.

Representatives from Lionstone and JPMorgan Chase could not be reached for comment.

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Virginia Tech Launches Online MBA

Virginia Tech is launching its newest MBA program option, the Online MBA, in response to the changing needs of students and the workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new format allowed us to combine some of the tried and true features of our established in-person MBA formats and online master of information technology to craft the best possible educational experience for students who value consistent interaction with their classmates and also want the flexibility of an online program,” said Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for graduate programs.

“We’ve sought to include the best aspects of our top-ranked Evening MBA, experiential-focused Executive MBA and hybrid Professional MBA, both in curriculum development and online delivery,” said Dana Hansson, director of MBA programs. “We’ve integrated feedback from students in all formats to determine how we can offer the best educational experience online.”

It’s this feedback that informed some of the unique features of the 22-month Online MBA that distinguish it from other online MBA offerings in the marketplace.

While fully online, delivery of the new program will be evenly split between synchronous and asynchronous experiences. “While students appreciate the flexibility of asynchronous learning, many shared with us that meeting synchronously best mirrors an on-campus experience. It allows students to participate actively in class discussions and study teams, develop working relationships with their peers and engage with Virginia Tech’s top-notch faculty,” Hansson said.

The program is cohort-based, which means that students complete their studies in lockstep and have the opportunity to build meaningful professional relationships with their classmates.

Students can choose to specialize their MBA in areas where Virginia Tech has significant expertise, such as cybersecurity, entrepreneurism, health information technology and business data analytics. The program also includes an option to study abroad through the international business specialization.

Online MBA students will also share the support and resources available to all Virginia Tech MBA students. Hansson said this includes access to an established MBA alumni mentoring program, personalized academic advising and membership in Virginia Tech’s vast alumni network.

“We’re excited to provide this new opportunity to professionals across the globe who want to further their careers and join our talented group of students and alumni who are proud to call themselves Hokies.”

Applications for the inaugural cohort are due May 1, with classes starting in July and graduation expected in May 2023.

Learn more at mba.vt.edu/online.

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