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Work begins on George Mason University’s $235 million Arlington campus expansion

George Mason University is breaking ground on the massive $235 million expansion of its Arlington campus.

“This is the start of something big for Mason,” Carol Kissal, the university’s senior vice president for administration and finance, said in a statement. “And when it’s done, it will have fundamentally changed our campus, as well as the broader Arlington community.”

Initial work is beginning this week, a GMU spokesperson confirms to ARLnow, despite the weather. A formal groundbreaking is set for the spring to coincide with the university’s 50th anniversary, we’re told.

Right now, there’s a hole at Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square where the old Kann’s Department store once stood. That was demolished in March to make way for a 400,000 square-foot building that will be the centerpiece of the expansion.

As construction gets underway, fencing will go up mostly around the driveway of the FDIC building on N. Monroe Street, a press release notes. Excavation and relocating of an underground storm pipe, water line, and electric line will also take place. There will be drilling, as well, to install beams to support sheeting and shoring.

Neighbors are being told to expect some impacts from construction during the multi-year project.

“There may be some noise. You may feel some vibrations,” said a GMU facilities manager in the press release. “But it’s all safe and done in compliance with rules and requirements. The reality is, the end result will be worth it.”

The building will house faculty from Institute for Digital InnovAtion and the university’s new School of Computing. The university is expected to occupy about 60% of the space with the remaining 40% potentially leased to private companies.

The university is predicting that the expansion, which was planned in the wake of Amazon’s decision to open its HQ2 here, will add 3,000 to 4,000 students to the Arlington campus by the time it opens in the summer of 2025.

While it may be a gaping hole now and a state-of-the-art university facility later, the Fairfax Drive site was in the past the Arlington outpost of the popular D.C.-based Kann’s Department Store. The store featured three floors, an escalator, and some unusual attractions. Apparently, the shoe department had a large glass-windowed display with live spider monkeys from Brazil.

In 1975, the university bought the building and turned it into its law school. At the time, it was believed to be the only law school in the country to have an escalator.

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