Short list of potential FBI sites expected soon

Maryland and Virginia have ardently wooed the federal government for the big campus

The federal government is expected to name a short list of sites it will consider for a future FBI headquarters in the next few days, narrowing speculation about what could be the largest new federal campus since the CIA’s Langley headquarters was completed in 1961.

The search has drawn intense jockeying from area members of Congress, with both Virginia and Maryland politicos holding press events that felt like pep rallies in hopes of attracting the FBI’s 11,000-strong workforce — and the economic benefits that would come with it.

Once a list of sites is selected, a whole new level of jockeying will begin when developers are invited to submit proposals to build the headquarters on one of the short-listed properties.

The winning developer will take home a prize like few others in the annals of public-private developer swaps: the downtown property on Pennsylvania Avenue where the FBI’s Hoover Building stands.

Although the 40-year-old building is deteriorating, inefficient and lacks proper security for the FBI, it sits on 6.7 acres encompassing nearly two city blocks in the booming Penn Quarter neighborhood, across the street from where Donald and Ivanka Trump are turning the Old Post Office Pavilion into a luxury hotel.

Among the sites that may be in contention for the new headquarters are the parking lot area at the Greenbelt Metro station, a combination of public and private land in Springfield, the former Landover Mall and Poplar Point, a waterfront property in Southeast D.C.

All offer the possibility for construction of a 2.1 million-square-foot campus that federal officials say must sit within 21 / 2 miles of the Beltway and two miles of a Metro station — requirements that eliminated more than a dozen other locations.

Although there is expected to be intense interest among developers pursuing the Hoover Building, there are few locations in the region capable of meeting the government’s requirements for the new facility, which some say are growing even stricter.

When it began seeking sites in November, the General Services Administration, which is managing the process, advised landowners interested in luring the FBI that at least 50 acres were probably needed.

But in conversations with site teams before site proposals were due June 2, GSA officials indicated an additional preference for 350-foot security setbacks around the FBI buildings.

Such a requirement could render the Springfield or Poplar Point locations too small.

A GSA spokeswoman said in a statement that laying out the security preferences didn’t constitute a change in rules for site selection, just a review of requirements.

The government plans to select both a final location and a development partner for the headquarters late next year.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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