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The first phase of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development is underway with the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The one-story theater first opened in 1998, and “is an example of a typical multi-screen movie theater built during the late 1990’s throughout the region,” according to a city staff report.

In its place will go a pump station that will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use development. The pump station will be owned and maintained by AlexRenew.

Demolition of the theater started more than a week ago. A construction worker at the site said that the front section of the theater, which included the box office and concession stands, will likely be torn down by the end of the week.

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The ever-evolving “security threat landscape” and changes in user behavior and IT infrastructure require IT professionals to keep their knowledge up to date and stay on top of the latest trends and developments.

Earning a 100% online Master of Information Technology or graduate certificate with cybersecurity specialization from Virginia Tech can help individuals meet these heightened demands in a number of ways.

Ranked one of the top online master’s degree for cybersecurity by Cyberdegrees.org and one of the top four online graduate IT programs nationwide by U.S. News and World Report, Virginia Tech’s VT-MIT program takes a unique approach to specialized education.

Core courses in areas such as information systems design, electronic commerce, software engineering and computer programming help students master technical expertise in a business context. After completing these core courses, degree students can choose to specialize in cybersecurity technologies, cybersecurity management or cybersecurity policy. Virginia Tech also offers these topic areas as standalone graduate certificates for those not pursuing the full degree.

Whether interested in running an in-house cybersecurity practice or exploring the legal and ethical concerns triggered by data breaches, students have the opportunity to tailor their education around their career ambitions.

Part of Virginia Tech’s core strength is its world-class cybersecurity research, supported by $15 million in research grants and contracts. Students can access six cybersecurity research centers, including the Ballston-based Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

The VT-MIT program’s 100% online format allows students to pursue higher education at their own by deciding their own course load each semester. Further enriching the student environment is the program’s openness to students with diverse backgrounds and interests, including business line leaders looking to improve their technology capabilities while leveraging their domain expertise.

Combating today’s cyber threats has never been more difficult — or more critical to business continuity. A Master of Information Technology degree with cybersecurity specialization or standalone graduate certificate from Virginia Tech can help leaders better understand the systemic nature of these threats and teach them strategies for dealing with an increasingly complex security landscape.

Learn more about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology with cybersecurity specializations at vtmit.vt.edu.

Morning Notes

Virginia Tech Initials Officially Added to Potomac Yard — “The Metro board on Thursday unanimously approved a plan to add Virginia Tech’s initials to the future Potomac Yard station and remove the University of Virginia’s initials from the West Falls Church station.” [Washington Business Journal]

City Advises Preparation for Wednesday Winter Storm — “While Wednesday’s winter storm forecast evolves, we encourage you to make time now to ensure you & your family are prepared.” [Twitter]

Mitigation Mandates Go Into Effect — “Effective today, new statewide mitigation mandates include a stay-home order between midnight and 5 a.m., with some exceptions.” [Virginia.gov]

Washington Post Profiles Zero-Waste Old Town Store — “Enter Mason & Greens, the Washington region’s first zero-waste store. The couple flung open the shop’s French doors in Old Town Alexandria in March, just as the coronavirus was exploding across the country.” [Washington Post]

ACPS Superintendent Fields Questions About Reopening — “ACPS has decided to use “concurrent teaching” when in-person learning starts in late January. Watch this video to learn more.” [Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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While a poll showed most ALXnow readers don’t need convincing, Virginia Tech is still pulling out all the stops as it works to get its name added to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

Virginia Tech is in the process of creating Innovation Campus, a new 1 million-square-foot campus at the northern end of Potomac Yard planned to have planned to have around 750 students by the time its completed in ten years. The school has pushed to have the nearby Metro station named “Potomac Yard — VT” to highlight the campus.

Adding Virginia Tech to the primary part of the station name was approved by the City Council and is currently pending review by WMATA.

David Baker, assistant director of Government and Community Relations at Virginia Tech, spoke with ALXnow about the proposal to add VT to the station’s name.

ALXnow: What would you say about the name to those who might be wary of adding Virginia Tech’s initials to the Metro station in the way they might be concerned about adding a corporation’s name?

Baker: As you may know, Metro doesn’t allow corporate entities. What they do allow is universities to have their names included on Metro stations. There are ten universities across the region included on the Metro map.

Our new campus will be less than half a mile — less than a quarter of a mile — from the station. It will be our flagship campus on Northern Virginia. Our obligation to the commonwealth is that we graduate 750 masters students annually

For us to do that, ti’s going to take thousands of students in the pipeline. This is not some sideshow satellite campus, this is a big deal. The state has invested substantial money into this project. It was a key driver for Amazon’s decision, but it’s also a symbol of how the District, Maryland and Virginia came together for the first time to pursue one of these huge economic windfall opportunities. The Innovation Campus is a core component of that.

We’re hearing from leaders that it’s access to talent that’s going to attract the next Amazon.

ALXnow: What about the concern about wanting some permanence for the name? After all, Metro is also now having to remove UVA’s name from the West Falls Church Metro station.

Baker: Virginia Tech has actually bought out UVAs. We are simultaneously going through a process called PPEA with Hick Construction to build a large new facility at the West Falls Church Metro station, focused on smart construction and architecture.

Virginia Tech is investing in that campus as well. UVA was there for 25 years, it made sense at the time. The thing about universities: we talk in centuries, not decades. When universities make investments in campuses, it’s a much longer time frame. That’s why there’s an understanding of that commitment, that’s why the City of Alexandria endorsed adding the name to the station. They see a long term benefit. Looking at the other universities on the Metro stations… that’s as rock solid as we can get

George Mason is the only university in the system that has their name on two stations — as primary on Virginia Square and as a secondary name on Vienna. Their main campus is nowhere close, certainly not within a half-mile. The names already on there are being grandfathered. What we’re saying is “use the George Mason model, keep our name as secondary [at West Falls Church] — but because this is our flagship that’s worthy of the primary name Potomac Yard-VT.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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This week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is asking the public whether or not they’d want to see Virginia Tech added to the name of the new Potomac Yard Metro station.

The name would be associated with Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, which is promised to bring a massive redevelopment to the area.

Several Metro stations in the system have other locations included, like Vienna/Fairfax-GMU. The additional names can pose a challenge though, like requiring removal if the facility closes — as is the case with West Falls Church Metro station, which has University of Virginia in the name despite UVA no longer operating a school near the station.

In September, the City Council unanimously approved the potential change, but final approval of the change still rests with WMATA.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every aspect of modern-day life, from the way consumers buy their groceries to how employees connect to corporate systems. Learning is no exception.

Since the outbreak, online learning has become more central to people’s lives. And many plan to continue the trend: More than half of American adults who expect to need more education or training post-pandemic say they would do it online, according to an August 2020 survey by the Strada Education Network.

Yet not all online education is created equal — and IT pros looking to invest in a program should compare and contrast options carefully.

Whether pursuing a full-time master’s degree to deepen IT expertise or seeking a certificate to boost content knowledge in a specific area, there are many reasons why Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology program (VT-MIT) is a superior choice for IT leaders.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs report ranks Virginia Tech’s MIT degree the nation’s fourth best. The program blends coursework and offers twelve areas of specialized study for a diverse education.

Courses are taught by world-class faculty experienced in translating a robust academic experience to an effective online format. For nearly 20 years, the VT-MIT program has relied on a two-tiered system of master faculty and distance learning instructors who together deliver a superior online classroom experience that encourages peer-to-peer support, faculty-to-student mentoring and real-time engagement, making VT-MIT a leader in the online education space long before COVID-19 forced other programs to go virtual.

Students can also expect to reap these advantages:

  • Increased Flexibility  Students can choose their own timeline and toggle between full- and part-time schedules, depending on employment status and current workload.
  • Greater Convenience –– A combination of synchronous and asynchronous online classes allows students to learn anywhere, anytime — ideal for remote workers unsure of when they may return to the office.
  • Enhanced Value Students can earn a VT-MIT degree at a universal tuition rate (no residency required) from a well-respected public institution.

Today’s IT professionals must act fast to keep pace with a rapidly evolving IT environment. Experience and specialized IT skills are critical to making the right technology decisions, at the right time. With the flexibility of an online VT-MIT degree or graduate certificate, IT leaders can strike the perfect balance: earn a respected credential that will help them confront the technological challenges of the 21st century while accommodating new realities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic extends, many professionals are taking this time to prepare for the future by investing in graduate education. And there might not be a better time to do so.

Whether it’s the increased flexibility in classroom formats, frozen tuition rates, relaxed admission requirements, or reduced interest rates on student loans, there are plenty of reasons why students feel like this time period is a unique opportunity for them to build the skills and professional network they need to advance their career.

While fall classes have already started, there are still options for individuals who want to take advantage of graduate study opportunities before next year’s back-to-school season. Virginia Tech’s local Evening MBA program offers a spring entry term with classes starting January 19.

The Evening MBA is a top 20 nationally ranked program designed with maximum flexibility for working professionals.

Students choose their own course load each semester, so those dealing with job uncertainty or working parents with new childcare demands can find the right workload for them and even easily switch between full- and part-time status.

While classes typically take place in-person on weekday evenings at Virginia Tech’s conveniently located Falls Church center, the current environment shifted instruction mode to primarily online, with some classes still offering an in-person option.

The flexible program format contributed to what associate director of MBA recruiting Rebecca McGill described as a “significant increase in applications and enrollments for the fall term.” She added that many also chose this time to apply because they can “take advantage of relaxed GMAT/GRE test score requirements that have never been offered before.”

For spring applicants, the Evening MBA reduced the number of years of work experience required for a test score waiver from ten years to five.

McGill expects the increased application trend to continue for the spring term “as more and more individuals use this time to invest in themselves and their future.”

Applications for the spring semester are due December 1. Learn more at evening.mba.vt.edu.

Morning Notes

Beyer says New White House Science Report is Misinformation — “This kind of ridiculous misinformation is something you would expect to see from the government of North Korea.” [Twitter]

Senator Amy Klobuchar Attends GOTV Event in Alexandria — “Glad to join @AlexVADems, @C_Herring, @AmyJacksonVA and Councilwoman Del Pepper at an early voting event in Alexandria, Virginia for Sen. Mark Warner and VA candidates up and down the ballot. Everyone, please make a plan and go vote!” [Twitter]

New Luxury Condos Near Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech in Alexandria — “Just minutes from Amazon’s new HQ2 complex in Northern Virginia, The FORTIS Companies of Washington, DC has broken ground on a 138-unit luxury condominium community called Dylan. Its planned 2022 delivery coincides with the highly anticipated opening of the new Potomac Yard Metro Station, a five-minute walk from Dylan’s front door. Dylan’s spacious one- to three-bedroom condos will average 1,200 square feet and will be priced from the $600,000’s to over $1 million.” [Zebra]

Upland Park Development Gets BDAC Approval — “On Monday evening, the Beauregard Design Advisory Committee (BDAC) hosted its the final meeting to discuss Phase 1 of the Upland Park development project, giving approval to the plans to build a new townhome community.” [Alexandria Living]

Fire Department Recommends Battery-Operated Candles this Halloween — “If you have fall/Halloween decorations, use battery-operated candles in jack-o-lanterns & keep all decorations away from open flames to prevent home fires. Read more about celebrating safely & preventing the spread of COVID-19 during your festivities.” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy (during the day). High 73F. Winds light and variable. Rain showers in the evening will evolve into a more steady rain overnight. Low 59F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Document Control Specialist — “Use knowledge of the legal process and legal terms to analyze the content of legal documents and determine the status of investigative or court proceedings; recognize documents that are missing; and work with attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants to obtain and organize documents for filing.” [Indeed]

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This was a big week for Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.

We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.

Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  2. City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
  3. City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
  4. Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
  5. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  6. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  7. One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
  8. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  9. Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
  10. Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
  11. Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved plans for the first phase of the massive North Potomac Yard redevelopment on Saturday.

Those plans include three academic buildings with significant open space dedicated to computer science research and development programs for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, open space and a mix of six residential and office buildings.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

Saturday’s approval was necessary for Virginia Tech to meet its timeline of being operational at Potomac Yard by fall 2024.

The first phase of the $1 billion campus will see construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs at Alexandria’s border with Arlington. The permanent campus will take up four acres and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

“We made a commitment, the city made a commitment to do what he can do to get that campus and academic building open by the fall of 2024,” said land use attorney Cathy Puskar, who represents landowner JBG Smith. “And despite a pandemic and other interruptions, everybody has held to that schedule. So, it really has been a Herculean effort, and we’re really excited to be here today.”

The master plan amendment includes increasing building heights near the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station. Buildings in Block 15 would increase in height from 85 feet to 90 feet, and from 90 feet to 115 feet on Block 18.

Council is expected to approve the design of a pump station in the northern section of the property this winter. The property reserved for the pump station will be a temporary home for outdoor parking lots until the underground lots for the buildings under construction are ready.

Images via City of Alexandria

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