D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) will suggest that the federal government relocate the FBI from its outdated headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Poplar Point, according to three administration officials involved in the plans.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is not yet complete and the mayor has not authorized release of its contents.
Poplar Point, located between Interstate 295 and the Anacostia River, meets many of the criteria that the FBI and the General Services Administration, which manages real estate for the federal government, have outlined in a search for ideas about where to build a new campus for the FBI. The 110-acre waterfront property in Southeast D.C. has easy highway access, is close to Metro (the Anacostia stop, on the Green Line) and is already owned by the federal government.
Poplar Point is also close to Bolling Air Force Base and the former St. Elizabeths hospital, where the U.S. Coast Guard will relocate to a brand new headquarters facility in August. Together, they could form a neighborhood stronghold of national security forces.
But the District faces a host of challenges in convincing the FBI to move there, some of which officials with competing sites in Maryland and Virginian won’t have to address.
Poplar Point is still home to National Parks Service police facilities, which would need to be relocated. Environmental activists have sued in the past to ensure that cleanup of toxic materials at the site takes place. And ownership of the property is in flux because Congress passed legislation seven years ago allowing the property to be transferred to the District’s control, but little progress has been made by the D.C. government to facilitate that transfer.
There is also a questionable financial return for the District in putting the FBI there, since federally owned property cannot be taxed. Of the 110 acres on Poplar Point, 70 must “be maintained for park purposes in perpetuity,” according to the legislation. The FBI is searching for a campus of 40 to 55 acres, which wouldn’t leave the city much in the way of taxable, private development. Past proposals for the property included a soccer stadium for D.C. United and a mixed-use center for green jobs.
The good news for the District is that if the FBI departs the city, it will free up the J. Edgar Hoover Building site for development. Submissions to the GSA’s FBI search are due March.
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