All it is at this point is a memo, and a memo that has not been approved by the Metro board of directors, but it’s worth breaking down
the possible ramifications of a relationship Metro and the General Services Administration are negotiating. Metro’s board is likely to consider an agreement in December.
The basics are that an entity with some of the best undeveloped real estate in the Washington region (Metro) is looking to negotiate exclusively with the landlord of the region’s largest employer and occupier of office space (the federal government).
Four Metro-owned sites appear to be in play, at Anacostia, Branch Avenue, Huntington and Naylor Road.
The agreement would work something like this: the next time the GSA has a major consolidation (one that gets funded, another story) it could select one of those four Metro sites and, rather than holding a competition among landowners, could lease that site and then hold a competition among builders to erect a building there. GSA gets transit-accessible facilities; Metro gets millions in lease income, enlivened station areas and economic development impact for its member jurisdictions.
What could this mean for everyone else?
• Private developers: For developers that have the talent to build top-of-the-line government office buildings, this deal could mean the chance to compete for multiple deals. Location-based factors — like whose site is near decent restaurants or gas stations — would be eliminated altogether. Instead the competition would ask: Who can build the best building on the chosen site at the best price?
• Private landowners: For companies that bought land looking to attract a GSA tenant, the outlook has already dimmed recently and it’s hard to see how this could help. Competing with sites that are located directly at Metro stations and available to the GSA ahead of time could effectively cut out private landowners from certain deals.
• Prince George’s County: No part of the region feels more slighted by the GSA, and there were many onlookers who shared the county’s frustration at not attracting a Health and Human Services lease — and the associated jobs and foot traffic — early this year. It’s probably not an accident that half the sites are in Prince George’s.
• The District: Could the inclusion of land around the Anacostia Metro station suddenly restart long dormant discussion about Poplar Point, once a top economic development priority of former mayor Adrian Fenty? If the GSA lines up an agency for that site, prospects for the area change dramatically.
• Regional collaboration: So much time, effort and money has gone into trying to make Washington’s many local jurisdictions work in concert, from the Metropolitan Council of Governments, to the Greater Washington Board of Trade, to the Chesapeake Crescent to the 2030 Group. If the Metro-GSA deal becomes reality and succeeds, it could mark a major triumph for regionalism.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz