Federal officials reject latest appeal to move HHS offices to Prince George’s

Offices for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will remain in Rockville despite repeated attempts by three developers to lure the federal agency to Prince George’s County.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office on Monday upheld a ruling that denied the requests of three developers who did not win the $450 million lease by the General Services Administration and who filed a round of protests with the GAO. The 15-year lease was awarded to Fishers Lane/JBG, a Rockville-based developer.

“In our most recent decision, our review of the record led us to conclude that GSA evaluated offers in the way it had outlined in the solicitation, and properly considered the relative merits and prices of the proposals in making its selection decision,” Ralph O. White, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel, said in a statement.

One Largo Metro, Metroview Development Holdings and King Farm Associates filed bid protests with the GAO on two occasions this year after the agency, which oversees development for the executive branch, awarded the lease for 1 million square feet of office space to JBG.

JBG has held a five-year, $108 million lease on the HHS office space in Rockville while the procurement process continued. Meanwhile, the Prince George’s developers have been trying to win the HHS bid to bring the federal offices to Largo, New Carrollton or Hyattsville.

The last protest was filed in September. During a review last month, the GAO received testimony from federal officials during private meetings.

White said the GAO’s decision “expresses no view as to the merits of the firms’ respective proposals.” No additional details were released; the decision was issued under a protective order because it contains sensitive and proprietary information.

The ruling ends a long chapter in the county’s pursuit of the HHS lease, which affects the location of 3,000 workers.

But county officials expect a different outcome in the future. The county has tried for years to increase its number of federal leases, arguing that it has fewer government leases than other jurisdictions in the Washington area but 15 Metrorail stations that are suited for development.

“It’s disappointing that HHS is not going to come to the county,” said David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development in Prince George’s. “GSA needs to work hard to locate a major federal lease agreement in the county in the next several years.”

In June, the GAO ruled in the developers’ favor, saying that the GSA unfairly awarded the lease to Fishers Lane/JBG. Agency officials said that the “GSA failed to evaluate offers in a way it had outlined in the solicitation.”

The ruling opened the door for a reevaluation of the award. But the GSA awarded the bid to JBG in August.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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