Shenandoah University celebrated the planned renovation of the former National Guard armory located on its main campus, which will serve as the university’s new Hub for Innovators, Veterans and Entrepreneurs (HIVE), at a groundbreaking ceremony on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Approximately 200 people attended the ceremony, which took place in Halpin-Harrison Hall, Stimpson Auditorium, due to poor weather. The event featured remarks from Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.; Provost Cameron McCoy, Ph.D.; Yolanda Shields, MBA, an instructor in SU’s School of Business; Mohammad Obeid, Ph.D., associate professor and director of SU’s augmented reality/virtual reality program and co-director of the Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCiL); student and veteran Logan Williams ’25, president of Shenandoah Veterans and Supporters (SVS); Shenandoah University Board of Trustees Chair Mike Perry; and Winchester Mayor John David Smith Jr.
Shenandoah Conservatory students treated attendees to a patriotic-themed musical performance, and students from Randolph-Macon Academy presented the nation’s colors. Attendees were able to take an interactive virtual tour of the HIVE using augmented reality/virtual reality technology.
“It’s important on this day, on the 11th day of the 11th month, at nearly the 11th hour, that we remember why the armory is timeless,” Dr. McCoy said in his opening remarks to attendees. “It’s a place for community, it’s a place from which to launch important endeavors, and it’s a place of service. What we are doing with the HIVE – with all of our partners – is rekindling that timeless spirit. It’s with great gratitude that we remember how important it is to be around other veterans on this Veterans Day, to honor them, and to revitalize a place from which veterans were born.”
At the end of the ceremony, all seven speakers were joined by Wendell Brown of ESa, the architectural firm that designed the HIVE; Jeff Boehm, president of Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc., which is handling construction; and local World War II veteran Leon Pope, a 1943 graduate of John Handley High School in Winchester, for a photo with hard hats and golden shovels.
Work has begun on the historic 80-year-old building and the first two phases of the four-phase project are expected to be completed in August 2023. The third phase has an anticipated completion date of August 2024, while the completion date of the fourth and final phase is contingent upon funding.
When complete, the HIVE will transform the former armory into a future-focused and boundary-breaking technology hub, innovation accelerator and magnet location for tech business startup, expansion and relocation.
The HIVE will feature a technology-enhanced emergency preparedness center; a community technology incubator to provide programming, mentoring, investor introductions and workspace; a community makerspace that will provide space to students and community members alike to explore revolutionary technologies and rapid prototyping equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters; and the SU Collaboratory, a community “sandbox” that will serve as a central component of the HIVE.
The building will additionally serve as the home for an expanded Veterans, Military and Families Center that will provide veterans with comprehensive support, resources and opportunities in high-demand technology fields; the SCiL Lab; additional space for Shenandoah’s cybersecurity and data analytics programs; and the SU Center for Transformative Learning.
“When we think about this building, we talk about how the theme is about protecting the future,” Dr. Fitzsimmons said. “‘Protecting’ is a nod to how it has served our community in the past. But it’s also about protecting the future, because everything slated for the HIVE is future-forward. Through this project, we’re asking, ‘How are we going to serve our community and our country in the future?’ That’s what we’re expecting from the innovators, the veterans and the entrepreneurs.”
The HIVE will offer services in partnership with the commonwealth of Virginia, the city of Winchester, the counties of Frederick and Clarke, and local educational entities like Laurel Ridge Community College and the Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center (part of the Winchester City Public Schools), as well as other local organizations and private investors.
“Winchester is proud to have a partner in the community like Shenandoah University, who continues to strive in making Winchester a hub for opportunities,” Mayor Smith said. “Over the last few years, Winchester has become a place of many firsts, and this is going to be a first in Winchester and our surrounding area. I want to thank Tracy Fitzsimmons for all of the hard work that has been put in to make Shenandoah University not only a hub for inclusion, but a hub for progress.”
The Armory Building was constructed in 1940 and remained the headquarters for the Virginia Army National Guard 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment until 2009, when the Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center was built in Frederick County. Shenandoah acquired the property as the National Guard prepared for its move to the new headquarters.
In addition to its military function – the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment set out from the former armory for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944 – the building hosted many community events, including dances, county fair events and performances by musical acts, including Winchester-area native Patsy Cline in the early days of her career.
To celebrate and preserve the building’s history and its connection to the Winchester community, Shenandoah is collecting memories of the former armory from community members. Share your memories – and photographs – using the submission form available at su.edu/hive or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations to the HIVE can also be made at su.edu/hive.