Report: Inova backs off plans for mixed-use ‘innovation district’ on Merrifield campus

Inova’s Center for Personalized Health campus in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Inova Health System appears to be narrowing its vision for the former ExxonMobil headquarters site in Merrifield to health care.

The nonprofit has “no immediate intention” of pursuing previously approved plans to turn the 117-acre campus at 8095 Innovation Park Drive into a mixed-use development, Inova President and CEO Dr. Stephen Jones recently told the Washington Business Journal.

Now named the Inova Center for Personalized Health (ICPH), the campus will instead continue to house medical facilities, such as the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, and administrative offices, which are being relocated from the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus on the west side of Gallows Road, according to the WBJ’s story.

“It’s not a priority, for sure — and never was a priority for me,” Jones told the WBJ, noting that his focus will be on “clinical care.”

Inova proposed ambitious plans in 2018 to build out ExxonMobil’s former corporate headquarters with health care, academic and research facilities, along with multi-family housing, offices, a hotel and retail.

Under Jones’s predecessor, Knox Singleton, the health care system began leasing the campus in 2015 after it was vacated by the oil and gas company, opening the Center for Personalized Health in 2017 and the cancer institute in 2019.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors amended its comprehensive plan in September 2019 to allow 3.8 million square feet of potential new development on the property in addition to five existing office buildings, which collectively totaled more than 1.2 million square feet.

About half of that future construction would’ve been devoted to academic and research spaces for George Mason University and the University of Virginia. Inova also envisioned 705 residential units — possibly for assisted living, student housing and workforce housing — and a 120,000-square-foot hotel “that could be used by families of cancer patients and researchers,” according to the county.

“The campus now will be transformed into a vibrant innovation district with dynamic academic and research spaces, along with supporting retail, hotel, housing, and recreation uses that are open and inviting to the community,” Inova said in a press release at the time.

Just a month later, however, Jones announced an organizational restructuring for Inova, and the nonprofit shuttered the capital investments initiative, start-up accelerator and genomics research institute based at the ICPH.

Since then, the ICPH has expanded its cancer screening services and leased space to UVA, which is expected to begin offering college degree programs, classes for high school students and workforce training on the Merrifield campus in January 2025.

Jones told the WBJ that Inova could still follow through on a substantial redevelopment in the future if “opportunities came along,” but he doesn’t want to get distracted from the system’s health care-related needs, including new hospitals planned in Alexandria and Springfield.