“The reality is that something on the order of 65 percent of our federal workforce in our county are driving somewhere else to go to work,” Edwards said.
Named by Obama to lead the GSA after a conference spending scandal, Tangherlini said he was committed to working with county officials. But he said he hoped the competition would result in more savings for taxpayers. “If jurisdictions are competing, then we at the GSA and federal taxpayers are going to get better deals,” he said.
When the Hoover building was completed in 1974, its concrete walls and canyonlike dry moat were considered top-shelf security measures. But because they fall short of current requirements, the FBI has closed main entries, canceled public tours and surrounded the building with planters. The building accommodates 54 percent of the agency’s headquarters staff; the rest are scattered in offices elsewhere.
“The FBI cannot afford to continue the status quo, from an operational effectiveness or a fiscal stewardship perspective,” said FBI associate deputy director T.J. Harrington in a letter to the GAO last year. “A new consolidated FBI headquarters facility is urgently needed and we view this as one of our highest priorities for the foreseeable future.”
While the FBI voiced its displeasure about the building in recent years, a snazzy new downtown neighborhood grew up around it, one featuring retailers H&M, Anthropologie and shops selling frozen yogurt and gourmet sandwiches.
The apartments and restaurants make the concrete mass of the government building appear more dated than ever. Its sidewalks, devoid of cafes and patrolled by FBI authorities on Segways, seems to belong to a time when downtown D.C. emptied at 5 p.m. Even top historic preservation officials in the city consider the building not worth what would probably be a very public, bitter fight to try to save it.
“It’s hideously ugly,” said LeTesha Dixon, a dog walker who passes the property on weekdays. She said she thinks the downtown area, where more than 56,000 people live, needs more open space. “Part of it should be a public gathering place,” she said.
The Hoover building was constructed at a time when the government needed room for fingerprint records, investigative reports and files, a requirement computers have rendered largely unneeded.
“It was really seen at the onset as a giant filing cabinet,” Tangherlini said.
He said he hoped the sale of the Hoover building, which was completed shortly after the agency became enmeshed in the Watergate scandal, would pay for all or most of a newly constructed FBI campus.
“It was built for a purpose and a use that has really been overwhelmed by time,” he said.