D.C. official says GSA criteria renders District ‘effectively ineligible’ to retain FBI HQ

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP - The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s top economic development official says the federal government’s requirements for a new FBI headquarters effectively eliminate the District’s preferred site, Poplar Point, from contention.

Barring new information, they said they will simply re-submit Poplar Point even though it does not conform to the General Services Administration’s new criteria, increasing the likelihood that the agency will depart the nation’s capital for the suburbs.

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The FBI says its current home at the J. Edgar Hoover Building no longer fits its needs, and the GSA, which manages federal real estate, has already solicited ideas from developers and local governments about how it might trade the Hoover building for a new headquarters.

Last month in a request for expressions of interests, the GSA narrowed its criteria for a new FBI to locations with approximately 50 acres that are within two miles of a Metro station and two-and-a-half miles of the Capital Beltway.

The transportation criteria effectively eliminates locations in Prince William and Loudoun counties, prompting complaints from county officials there.

Now comes concerns from D.C. Victor Hoskins, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said in a Nov. 26 letter to GSA administrator Dan M. Tangherlini that other criteria appear to eliminate the District’s proposed site, Poplar Point.

Although the Request for Expression of Interest’s “stated criteria do not preclude the District from submitting a site located within its boundaries for consideration by GSA, we are concerned that in reality, several identified preferences within the RFEI render District sites effectively ineligible for consideration,” Hoskins wrote.

Though the D.C. government has done little to prepare Poplar Point for development, the 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.

Hoskins raised two main concerns with the criteria. First, although Poplar Point has 110 acres, 70 acres there are required by federal law to be preserved as open space, meaning the site is likely too small under the GSA’s guidelines.

Second, the GSA said it preferred not to relocate the FBI to“sites on which the development of a FBI Headquarters would significantly disturb natural resources (e.g., wetlands and floodplains)” or otherwise negatively affect “the quality of the human and natural environment” in ways that could not otherwise be mitigated.

Hoskins wrote that for Poplar Point, which includes wetlands and fronts the Anacostia River, that preference puts “an urban, riverfront site such as Poplar Point at a significant competitive disadvantage, despite the fact that such a site can provide a secure location near many urban amenities, while at the same time mitigating any associated impacts.”

The GSA set a Dec. 17 deadline for responses. Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, said Thursday that the city would just re-submit its previous Poplar Point proposal despite its shortcomings under the new criteria: ”Poplar Point is what we have. This is it,” he said.

GSA spokesman Dan Cruz said that the agency had received Hoskins’ letter and would encourage the District to respond despite concerns about the criteria.

“The ad states that GSA anticipates approximately 50 acres would be needed to satisfy this project based on assumptions regarding building height, density, and security requirements,” Cruz said in an e-amil. “However, the language regarding the acreage is not a minimum nor a maximum requirement; it is a general ballpark figure. Smaller sites that satisfy all minimum requirements of square footage, security, access to public transit, and access to the Capital Beltway will be considered.”

 
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