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Campus master plan reimagines Virginia Tech

September 22, 2017

Drone Park
A drone park is going up on Virginia Tech's campus.

Campus growth shouldn’t happen by happenstance.

It should be intentional, said Sherwood Wilson, Virginia Tech’s vice president for operations.

About every 10 years, Virginia Tech devises a new master plan that maps out a vision for the university’s future physical growth.

“The provost and the president use the master plan as a tool to determine and provide a variety of infrastructure that will support the strategic initiatives of Virginia Tech” while maintaining the unique “sense of place” that is a hallmark of the main Blacksburg campus, Wilson said.

The university’s newest campus master plan, still in development, reimagines the ways that Virginia Tech operates throughout its Virginia locations in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia, known as the National Capital Region. It seeks to develop facilities for interdisciplinary collaboration and industry partnerships; strategies for using current spaces efficiently; and solutions to house students, faculty, and researchers.

The master plan also supports Virginia Tech’s Beyond Boundaries initiative, which is a mission to be an internationally recognized, global land-grant university that prepares students who are not only experts in their area of study, but who learn and work across all disciplines.

Members of the campus community and university partners already have contributed ideas to the master plan. The public also has offered feedback, and the university welcomes continued input as it finalizes plans by the end of this year, Wilson said.

President Tim Sands will highlight several key features and ongoing developments of the university’s new master plan during his second annual State of the University address at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, in the Moss Arts Center.

Here are a few highlights:

  • This fall, Virginia Tech will debut an innovative testing ground for students and researchers to fly unmanned aerial vehicles. The tallest drone park in the country is under construction on Oak Lane, which is southwest of the Virginia Tech golf course. This netted facility, measuring 300 feet by 120 feet, will be overseen by the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which manages one of seven unmanned-aircraft-system test sites approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The project, estimated at $1.2 million, is a component in the university’s new Intelligent Infrastructure and Human-Centered Communities Corridor, which connects the campus’ academic areas to a future smart village and supports autonomous systems research.

  • Virginia Tech is building a hub for biotechnology and medical research in Roanoke. In October, construction will begin on the 139,300-square-foot Virginia Tech Carilion Biomedical Research Expansion, adjacent to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. Researchers and clinicians will work side-by-side to make advances in human and animal medical sciences, with space for health sciences and technology research, comparative oncology research, and professional development and education.

    “We will have additional facilities, the latest technologies, and chances to interact in a way that will form a much tighter bond between Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Virginia Tech vice president for health sciences and technology. “We hope that this is going to have not only a dramatic impact on the nation's health and the area's health, but also a strong economic impact for the growth of southwest Virginia as a whole.”

    Also in Roanoke, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors will hold its grand opening on Wednesday, Sept 27. This new center will house scientists who will study how lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, are impacted by human behavior.


  • Connecting its Blacksburg campus is one of the goals of Virginia Tech’s master plan, and the Infinite Loop, an initiative still in the planning phase, would do just that. This proposed pedestrian walkway and bike path would weave throughout campus for about two miles, acting as an outer loop to the Drillfield. It would be built using universal design standards, accessible to all, and connecting all parts of campus, said Jason Soileau, assistant vice president in the Office of University Planning. The loop also could act as a testing ground for some university research, including driverless vehicles. Along the loop, planners have discussed the use of autonomous shuttle pods, which are driverless vehicles that can hold up to six people.

    “We could get very good feedback from people who are using it to get back and forth,” said Tracy McElroy, program manager for the Intelligent Infrastructure for Human -Centered Communities Destination Area and a project associate with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

    The Infinite Loop initiative likely would be popular with students.

    “They like thinking about how you traverse the campus in a seamless and holistic way,” said Frank Shushok, senior associate vice president for student affairs. “It is an innovative way to think about how we stay connected.”

  • Construction is underway on a new diverging diamond interchange on U.S. 460 in Blacksburg that will allow traffic to flow into campus from a new and improved Southgate Drive entrance. The project, planned for completion next year, includes a bridge bearing the university’s name that stretches over U.S. 460. The new Southgate Drive will lead vehicles to a roundabout on Duck Pond Drive. Research Center Drive also will be shifted, a move that will extend the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport runway.

Learn more about the campus master plan:

A town hall meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the New Classroom Building, Room 260. It is open to the university community and the public.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

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