WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University is asking the city of Winchester to apply for a $5 million state grant on its behalf to help fund the conversion of the former Virginia National Guard armory into a Hub for Innovators, Veterans and Entrepreneurs (HIVE).
In June, university officials said conversion of the 82-year-old building at 608 Millwood Ave. is expected to begin on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Shenandoah University (SU) bought the building in 2006 for $750,000, and a new armory opened in 2009 at 181 Pendleton Drive in Frederick County. The former armory has been mostly vacant for the past 16 years, but SU's esports program is based in an adjacent brick building that used to serve as a garage for the military facility.
According to SU's grant proposal, the HIVE would serve not just the university but the entire Winchester area as well. It is slated to include:
- Programming to expand on the health care, technology and skilled labor training programs offered by Winchester Public Schools' Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center.
- Space, tools and resources to allow SU's cybersecurity program to play a larger role in the state-funded Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, which is a state-funded program that aims to establish Virginia as a global center of excellence in cybersecurity research.
- Startup Shenandoah Valley, a regionwide business acceleration program with the goal of increasing regional entrepreneurship, driving economic growth and creating regional jobs.
- Frederick County’s The Workforce Initiative, which is a partnership of business, education, government and community stakeholders who collaborate to ensure a well-prepared workforce.
- A community technology incubator to mentor start-up technology businesses and put them in touch with corporate leaders and investors.
- An emergent media lab and makerspace, where users can explore technologies and create prototypes.
- The Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning, where students and faculty map the future of start-up business that deal with virtual reality technology.
- The Center for Trust, a laboratory for cybersecurity, data analytics and blockchain technologies that will facilitate student learning and research in these areas.
- The Veterans, Military and Families Center, which will provide local members of the military community with comprehensive support and resources to help them enter the university and the workforce.
- Collaboratory, a networking center where students and community members will learn by connecting, engaging and interacting with SU alumni, mentors, experts and professionals.
SU is asking City Council to approve a resolution that would allow City Manager Dan Hoffman to apply on the university's behalf for a $5 million Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development grant via its Industrial Revitalization Funds program. The grant requires $5 million in matching funds, all of which would be put up by SU. The city would not be responsible for contributing any money.
Winchester Program Manager Patrick Elwell said the grant "is available for certain industrial sites to basically revitalize them and make them beneficial to the community again rather than just sitting derelict."
The grant can only be issued to government agencies, Elwell said, which is why SU cannot apply for the funds directly. However, there is a stipulation that allows a government entity to apply for the money and turn the proceeds over to the university.
"We would basically be a pass-through entity for this project," Elwell said.
City Council is expected to vote on SU's grant request at its business meeting on Tuesday evening in Rouss City Hall.