The GSA, under a directive from President Obama to reduce the footprint and costs of its real estate, outlined the proposal as it launched a search for private development partners for two major parcels of federal land in downtown Washington.
One is the Hoover building on Pennsylvania Avenue. At nearly 40 years old, the concrete Brutalist building is deteriorating, inefficient and lacks proper security for the FBI.
In a solicitation to real estate developers Monday, GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini proposed swapping the Hoover building site — a valuable property on Pennsylvania Avenue — for the construction of a new, consolidated campus located in the Washington region. The solicitation, posted online here, asks for responses by March 4.
In an interview Monday, Tangherlini said getting the FBI out of the Hoover building represented a prime opportunity for the government to save money and reduce its space requirements. He said the building was “built for a purpose and a use that has really been overwhelmed by time.”
“It was really seen at the onset as a giant filing cabinet. We were going top keep all the agency’s records there,” he said.
Tangherlini said he hoped the Hoover site, which encompasses nearly two city blocks in the booming Penn Quarter neighborhood, would pay for all or most of a newly constructed campus for the agency elsewhere in the region.
But he said the agency would not know for sure until it received responses from the private sector. “What we want to do is ask the marketplace — what do you think?”
The possible move is expected to launch a local political battle over the agency’s relocation and as many as 11,000 highly sought-after jobs. Elected leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have all floated possible sites in their jurisdictions months before the GSA even began its search.
Prince George’s County leaders in particular have been adamant that more federal office jobs be relocated to their jurisdiction. Tangherlini said he was committed to working with county officials but emphasized that the GSA was in a retraction mode in terms of spending.
“We are really committed to work with [Prince George’s County] to help find ways to help them compete more aggressively within the overall space requirements, however we are in a mode right now where we are really looking at consolidation. So that situation is going to get more competitive,” he said.
He said he ultimately hoped the competition meant that the federal government and taxpayers would earn more savings. “If jurisdictions are competing then we at the GSA and federal taxpayers are going to get better deals,” he said.
Tangherlini said he was following a similar formula in seeking ideas for Federal Triangle South, a 22-acre area of five buildings near the National Mall in Southwest D.C. — some of them considered the most block-like and dull properties downtown.
Tangherlini said the buildings there ranged from completely empty to inefficient and that with the District of Columbia’s plans to overhaul the Southwest Waterfront — something he is closely familiar with from his time as the District’s city administrator — it was time for the government to look at how it might capitalize on some of its real estate assets there.
“Here we have this sort of stored asset value that we haven’t figured out a way to release,” he said.
Of the five buildings, Tangherlini said, “all of them are a single and inefficient use of that space. So what it does is it create an environment that isn’t kind of 24-7. You know, the sidewalks get rolled up in the evenings,” he said.
“In many ways the federal government has to be a better partner to local government to support their economic development rather than sort of block it, really in a physical way, as we are sometimes doing now,” he said.
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