GSA unfairly awarded lease to Rockville company, GAO rules

The General Services Administration unfairly awarded a lease for federal office space to a Rockville-based developer, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The GAO ruled that the GSA’s award to Fishers Lane/JBG Cos. should be reevaluated and that three other developers who were trying to entice the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to move from Rockville to Prince George’s County should get another chance to win the nearly $450 million, 15-year lease agreement.

“Our review of the record led us to conclude that the GSA evaluation was flawed because the GSA failed to evaluate offers in the way it had outlined in the solicitation,” Ralph O. White, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel, said in a decision issued this week. “We also held that GSA failed to properly document its selection decision.”

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

“We have another bite at the apple,” said John A. Lally, an attorney for the Carl Williams Group, which is part of Metroview Development Holdings. “We’re swimming upstream here, but at least it’s hopeful that GSA will have some pause” in making its decision.

Ronald S. Gart, an attorney for One Largo Metro, said he is restricted from talking about the claims made in his client’s bid protest. But, he said, One Largo Metro and the other developers are “very pleased they still have an opportunity” to vie for the award.

The Prince George’s locations are in New Carrollton, Largo and Hyattsville.

In his ruling, White recommended that the GSA reevaluate the offers according to the terms of the solicitation, award the lease to the bidder who offers the “best value to the government,” and reimburse the protesters for the cost of filing and attorney’s fees associated with the protests. The GSA has 60 days to respond to the recommendations.

White said the GSA did not properly evaluate or document the proposals based on their access to amenities, including sit-down restaurants and fitness facilities. “That was the basis for sustaining the protest,” he said.

GSA officials did not respond to requests for comment.

David Iannucci, Prince George’s assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development and public infrastructure, said the GAO’s decision is good news for the county, which is trying to foster economic development around its 15 Metro stations. The county is working with the GSA to secure other federal leases, Iannucci said.

“We’re very pleased that the Prince George’s sites will have a chance for federal job opportunities,” he said. “We support all the sites, and the county executive has a great deal of confidence that all would provide a great location for the federal workforce.”

He said that 60 percent of Prince George’s residents leave the county for work each day.

“We have to create more employment opportunities here,” he said. “We have 25 percent of the federal workforce and 3 percent of office leasing space.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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