Perhaps the most striking change that BRAC, and Fort Meade more broadly, has brought to the area is booming office and residential development.
The National Business Park, a nearby office complex with a who’s who list of contractors from Boeing to Booz Allen Hamilton to General Dynamics, continues to add buildings.
Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust owns about 186 acres at the office complex. About 3.2 million square feet of office space is 98 percent leased; COPT has about 262,000 more square feet under construction in two buildings.
COPT is also developing offices at the nearby Arundel Preserve, a 300-acre mixed-use community. The company already has one building — which is fully leased — in service and could build as much as another 1.15 million square feet of office space at the site.
New apartments have also sprung up in nearby Odenton, including the Flats 170 at Academy Yard.
Based on his conversations with realtors and economic development officials, Leib attributed much of the nearby development to the base. “A good 50 percent of this growth is because of DOD at Fort Meade,” he said.
Many expected that employees of the relocated agencies would face the most upheaval. At DISA, which moved from Arlington to Fort Meade, the agency has eased the transition through a telework program, according to Paul Berry, chief of the agency’s quality of work life office.
He said about 1,600 DISA employees at Fort Meade take advantage of the agency’s telework program, which allows employees to work from home up to three days a week but no more than five days in a two-week pay period.
Berry himself commutes from Hagerstown, a demanding commute that at one point made him consider seeking a new job.
“What keeps me going, and what has invigorated my work life, is being able to be a part of the telework program,” he said.
The downside of BRAC
Still, the moves haven’t been as rosy for everyone.
Small-business owners nearby, for instance, report that the new employees are not necessarily becoming customers. At the Cleaners at Mark Center, owner Daniel Lee said he originally supported the plan to build the Mark Center, expecting it to bring new business to his nearly three-decade-old establishment.
Instead, he said, he’s seen few new customers and his existing customers complain about the traffic generated by Mark Center employees.
Mun, whose Springfield deli has also not seen a boom in business, holds out hope that more customers may be on the way. COPT is building Patriot Ridge, an office complex that could include as much as 1 million square feet, just next door. The first building now has General Dynamics’ logo on it — along with a big sign advertising leasing opportunities.
For those hoping for significant cost savings, BRAC is expected to offer a smaller amount than projected but still hit close to $4 billion annually in cost savings, according to a GAO report released last year.
The estimated implementation cost was $21 billion — the previous four BRAC rounds together had cost about $25 billion — but the total expense eventually soared to $35.1 billion, the GAO found.
Military construction costs grew about 86 percent — at the NGA, for instance, construction costs increased by about $726 million.
As a result, the Pentagon’s annual recurring savings have decreased nearly 10 percent to about $3.8 billion, according to the GAO.
While much of the focus has been on the communities grappling with more workers and residents, Arlington County is dealing with office vacancy rates that have grown as government facilities departed areas such as Crystal City and Rosslyn.
Arlington estimated it would lose about 4.2 million square feet of office space as a result of BRAC — and still has about 1 million square feet left to go, said Andrea Y. Morris, the county’s BRAC director.
Much of the space is unoccupied, but the Pentagon still has leases that will linger through 2017, said Morris. Already, the vacancy rate in Crystal City is over 20 percent, while it’s at 17 percent in Rosslyn, she said.
“We’re still seeing the impacts of [BRAC], and it’s hard to plan ... because we’re not certain what the feds are going to do with that space,” she said.