New Arlington Director—and Mason Alum—Is Eager to Partner on Fuse Initiative

A man in a sweater and eyeglasses stands in front of a sign for a building.
Ryan Touhill: ‘As a Mason alum, I am extremely proud of how the university’s continued growth is driving positive changes for the student experience and the communities…’ Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Slated to open in 2024 when commercial tenants move in, Fuse at Mason Square will be a transformational complex, a 345,000-square-foot tower housing research and development labs, innovation centers, business and technology incubators, and classrooms for George Mason University students. The landmark project is expected to create an ecosystem of market movers, not just for the Mason campus neighborhood but for Arlington, Virginia, at large.

Key officials with Arlington agree, including newly appointed Director of Economic Development Ryan Touhill.

Fuse at Mason Square will greatly enhance Mason and Arlington’s shared goal to create dynamic places where people and ideas can collide to drive innovation and economic growth,” he said after a briefing at Mason Square with university officials. “The research that is taking place at Mason in Arlington is supporting existing partners across the public and private sectors and will continue to increase Arlington’s competitive position, so we can attract new business and investment to our community.”

As it happens, Touhill is a Mason alumnus.He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and international politics in 2006 from what is now the Schar School of Policy and GovernmentHe later earned his master of public policy degree from George Washington University. (Touhill is not the first Schar School grad to hold this position: The late PhD alum Terry Holzheimer held the job for nearly a decade.)

Touhill was named economic development director in November of 2022 after a national recruitment search for an executive to raise and maintain the county’s competitive position in all aspects of economic growth, from business to tourism.

He is no stranger to development: Touhill attended Mason in the early 2000s, which was the beginning of an era of growth for the university. In fact, he said, he was among the first cohort of students to reside in the newly constructed Liberty Square residence hall. “When we moved in,” he recalled, “the paint was still drying.”

Mason’s accelerated expansion since then is a point of pride for Touhill. “As a Mason alum, I am extremely proud of how the university’s continued growth is driving positive changes for the student experience and the communities where Mason is located.”

In announcing Touhill’s appointment, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement, “I am thrilled to have Ryan at the helm of our economic development team, leading our community through an exciting period of commercial growth post-pandemic recovery. He will be instrumental in fostering innovation and resiliency to advance economic growth and competitiveness in our community for small businesses and large corporations as well as foster real estate development, tourism, arts, and cultural amenities.”

Mason’s Fuse is positioned to do just that.

“In addition to increasing Arlington’s economic competitiveness, Fuse at Mason Square will bring vibrancy and activity to a key location within the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor,” Touhill said, referring to a two-and-a-half mile stretch of urban and residential neighborhoods that terminates at the Potomac River, adjacent to Washington, D.C. “I’m excited that the project includes retail, coworking, and spaces for people to convene. Given today’s hybrid work and learning environment, it is increasingly important to develop neighborhoods that are attractive, dynamic, and activated.”

In addition to housing Mason’s new School of Computing, Fuse at Mason Square will be home to faculty and students working with the Institute for Digital Innovation (IDIA) and its partners.