Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Initial preparations are underway for a major transformation of the George Mason University campus in Virginia Square.

Fencing is currently going up around the former Kann’s Department Store on the GMU Arlington campus, next to the FDIC office complex, in preparation for demolition. The aging, mid-century brick building, at 3401 Fairfax Drive, is set to be torn down starting in early 2021.

The demolition will make way for a $250 million expansion project, which will see the construction of an expansive new building to house new tech-oriented facilities.

“The university is transforming its Arlington campus to create a new innovation hub for the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor,” GMU said of the project. “The multi-million dollar expansion project will include an approximately 500,000 SF state-of-the-art building that will serve as the headquarters for Mason’s Institute for Digital Innovation and its proposed School of Computing.”

A university press release from July further clarified the GMU would occupy most of the building, while private companies may also lease space in it.

“Utilizing the site of the former Kann’s Department store, the Institute for Digital InnovAtion headquarters will be a mixed-use, multi-tenant building with approximately 400,000 square feet of new building space adjacent to Mason’s existing presence in Virginia Square,” the press release said. “Mason will occupy approximately 225,500 square feet of the new space, leaving 135,000 square feet available for leasing by industry partners.”

Abatement work will follow the fencing installation, and demolition is expected to start early next year. Design work on the new facility is expected to be complete by the fall of 2022, followed by a construction project which should be complete by mid-2025, according to an information packet about the project.

The overall goal is to position GMU, plus Arlington and Northern Virginia as a whole, as a new tech powerhouse.

“By 2024, Mason projects it will have more than 10,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students enrolled in computing-related degree program. More than just an addition to the Arlington skyline, the new building will directly serve those students,” the information packet says. “The first of its kind in Virginia, [Mason’s proposed School of Computing] will graduate future leaders in key tech fields and position Arlington as a global leader in computing.”

GMU is currently trying to raise $125 million, which will then be matched with another $125 million from the state, for the graduate programs. The university is set to receive another $110 million from Virginia to establish the undergraduate programs. The funding was announced in the wake of Amazon’s decision to locate its HQ2 in Arlington.

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