Deal could bring federal agency to Branch Avenue Metro station

Metro and the General Services Administration have mapped out an agreement that officials say could lead to the relocation of a federal agency to the Branch Avenue Metro station, a potential spur to redevelopment in southern Prince George’s County.

The agreement would allow the GSA, which manages real estate decisions for most federal agencies, to consider Metro-owned land at the Branch Avenue station for future federal offices.

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“We are hoping this will have a catalytic effect on the area around it,” said Stanley Wall, Metro director of real estate and station planning.

Officials from Prince George’s County have been pushing the GSA in recent years to move more federal agencies to the county. Prince George’s has 15 Metro stations and many residents who work for the federal government with some of the region’s longest commutes.

The agreement does not specify what agency could be moved to Branch Avenue. But Metro owns nearly 30 acres at the station, located between Branch Avenue and Suitland Parkway in Camp Springs. Metro is making about a quarter of that available to the GSA for future real estate needs.

The real estate committee for Metro’s board of directors is expected to vote on the measure Monday, and the full board could weigh in at its July 25 meeting.

Metro’s land at Branch Avenue is occupied by 3,222 surface parking spaces as well as bus bays, and the parcel that could be used by the GSA is on the western end of the site, along Auth Way. Should the GSA locate a federal agency there, it could spur mixed-use development on the rest of the site and on private land nearby, Wall said.

Wall said the Branch Avenue station, on the Green Line, was selected because of the amount of available land, the opportunity to prompt other development and the willingness of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to act as a partner.

GSA spokesman Dan Cruz said in an e-mail that with the agreement, “developers and the agency can improve the site’s chances of being included in competitive bids for new space for federal tenants in this region.”

Aubrey Thagard, Prince George’s County assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, called the move “preliminary” but said the Baker administration was eager to support efforts to bring federal agencies to its Metro stations. Among the possible roles for the county, he said, would be building parking garages at the site to make up for lost surface parking. “The county absolutely will jump in when it is time. We want to be a partner in the process,” he said.

The agreement for Metro to put up Branch Avenue land for federal facilities would amend a broader agreement that the transit agency and GSA first wrote last year. Previously, officials were focused on four stations — Anacostia, Branch Avenue, Huntington and Naylor Road — but Wall, who arrived at the agency in May of last year, said last week that list was not official and was not guiding decision-making.

Metro was criticized by a Fairfax County official in February after it amended a separate agreement to make Metro land at its Greenbelt station available should the GSA decide to relocate the FBI headquarters there.

But Wall said arrangements similar to the Branch Avenue pact could be made at other stations in the region and that no jurisdiction was being given special treatment.

“We expect that there will be more agreements like this,” he said. “The second one could be in Virginia, and the one after that could be in the District.”

 
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