George Mason University

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Mason unveils plans for Innovation District on West Campus

May 25, 2017   /   by Buzz McClain

Members of the campus community discuss their visions for West Campus at the Fairfax West Campus Vision Workshop. Photo by Bethany Camp.

After three days of workshops where 180 stakeholders brainstormed ideas for developing George Mason University’s western portion of its Fairfax Campus, a vision of an “Innovation District” came into focus.

The plan, with the working title Oxbridge, will dramatically redesign the 58-acre western side of the Fairfax Campus, with Braddock Road serving as a border to the south and bisected by Ox Road toward the city of Fairfax.

Campus Drive, which connects the two sides of the campus, is envisioned as a Main Street where students, faculty, staff and others can visit not only the existing athletic facilities already there but also a new, walkable town center of research and academic buildings.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera said Wednesday he was “extremely excited by what I’ve seen. And you can tell these are good ideas because it seems everyone is behind them; the ideas are clearly resonating…. This could be a very powerful and unifying vision for the community.”

The Innovation District will provide research and collaboration places, academic spaces, makerspaces and innovation labs, meeting places for activities and organizations, a mix of residential units, opportunities for arts and cultural experiences, a variety of retail outlets and flexible structures to accommodate changing needs, project leaders said.

George Mason Vice President for Facilities Thomas Calhoun, who moderated the workshop discussions, said there was one thing that surprised him at the meetings: “How quickly people coalesced behind a fairly common view.”

The Innovation District includes many requirements from Mason leadership, such as incorporating well-being into the design and preserving as much as possible of the green space that is a Mason Fairfax Campus hallmark.

This week’s workshops were the first step in the development. Now university administrators will begin managing the planning and implementation of the many varied projects.

Matt Bell, a principal from the architecture and planning firm Perkins Eastman, which led the workshop, said it’s important not to lose momentum. Therefore, changes must become visible in the near future, he added.

Mason administrators said that partnerships with key stakeholders, including the city of Fairfax and Fairfax County, are underway as they emphasize the economic development potential for the region.

Details and updates on the Western Fairfax Campus development can be found here.

George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera and Chris Downing, P.E. Vice President of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech, give the keynote speech at the Fairfax West Campus Vision Workshop. Photo by Bethany Camp.