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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

University partner in NOVA project

By Larry Hincker

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 12 - November 14, 1996

Virginia Tech is the lead university developing a "global university" in Potomac yards, the former railyard of the R.F.&P. Railroad, near Washington National Airport.

"Our job is to bring together institutions from around the world to share knowledge, develop programs, and offer educational opportunities to Washington metro-area residents...and possibly even around the world," said Charles Steger, vice president for Development and University Relations.

Steger has been the university liaison to the Washington Global Center project (WGC). WGC is negotiating with Wall Street investment house Lazard Freres & Co., which recently purchased the 342-acre Potomac-yard tract for $572 million from the Virginia Retirement System.

The project is in the very early planning stages Steger said, but if it becomes a reality, it would be a consortium of U.S. and international universities. The global university would be one component of a projected $3-billion project, also containing an international finance center, multimedia-international cultural center, an Internet-based stock exchange, and various types of housing units.

Virginia Tech has been part of the preliminary, broad-based discussion for about two years. To protect the confidentiality of the land acquisition, all participants in the project were bound by non-disclosure agreements. "Like any real-estate project, confidentiality was a must to close the deal. If the project becomes a reality, we will organize broad-based involvement from throughout the university," Steger said.

The program is considering several concepts including creation of a virtual university, co-locating research centers and think tanks, and delivery of traditional continuing-education programs.

"There are no plans to invest university monies and we can withdraw at any time," Steger said. At this point there are no university commitments, and the investment made to date is "sweat equity" only, according to Steger.

The R.F.&D. yard in Alexandria has been described by some developers as the largest developable land of its kind in the U.S. and ideally suited for a "world-center complex."

"We remain interested in this project because of the high-technology implications and the chance to be part of a unique and innovative educational enterprise," Steger said.