Springfield Faces Competition for 6,200 Army Jobs
Thursday, October 11, 2007
When the U.S. Army agreed in late summer to rethink plans to move thousands of jobs to Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County, it did so largely on the promise of an alternative property in Springfield near Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations.
But quickly and quietly, another site, on private land in Alexandria, has emerged as a competitor. In recent weeks, its owners have pressed two congressmen as well as senior officials at the Pentagon to move the jobs there. And Fairfax leaders are crying foul.
The Alexandria property, known as the Victory Center, sits on 16 acres along Eisenhower Avenue not far from the Van Dorn Metro station. Prudential Real Estate Investors owns the site, which is being developed and marketed by District-based Jones Lang LaSalle International. It is being considered, the Army said, as a new home for a collection of Defense Department operations housed across the region, primarily in leased space in Arlington County.
Those jobs were originally among more than 22,000 positions to be moved to Fort Belvoir and the nearby Engineer Proving Ground under the federal base realignments ordered by the Pentagon and Congress in 2005. The more recent concession by the Army to consider diverting 6,200 of the 22,000 jobs to a General Services Administration warehouse in Springfield was hailed by local officials, congressmen and business leaders not only for averting a traffic disaster and the need for as much as $500 million in road improvements near Belvoir but also for its potential to prompt a revival of ailing Springfield in southern Fairfax.
Much of that benefit would disappear if the jobs went to Alexandria, Fairfax officials said.
"We'd get all of the pain and none of the gain," said Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who, with Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) plans to ask the rest of the board Monday to send a letter of protest to the Army. "These folks would come traversing through our county on their way to Alexandria."
Kauffman takes an even stronger view. He thinks the Victory Center is inferior, saying that it has less access to Metro and VRE and that the Springfield site is closer to points south, from which most commuters are expected to come. Moving 6,200 jobs to Eisenhower Avenue will negate the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to improve the Telegraph Road-Capital Beltway interchange, he said. And, he said, the only reason the Victory Center is being considered is because its owners have pulled strings with Reps. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).
"You can't convince me that it's not a rigged deal," Kauffman said. "Property owners that suddenly find their way into offices that people would not normally have access to. A property that suddenly appears in a federal document as a viable option with no other private-sector alternatives. And all this taking place without outside market review or detailed public review."
Assistant Army Secretary Keith Eastin, who negotiated the original concession with Virginia to divert some of the jobs from Belvoir, said, "There is nothing rigged about this." Jones Lang LaSalle officials made a credible presentation to lease or sell the property that prompted him to pursue a full review of the Victory Center, he said. Other property owners are welcome to do the same, he said, although he noted that the Alexandria property meets the Pentagon's security requirements.
"We have been casting about for solutions to the substantial number of employees moving into the I-95 corridor," he said. "We've been looking for alternatives. This one just came in and will be considered along with GSA and any others that come up."
Eastin said that although the GSA is near Metro and VRE stations, it would require at least as much investment in roads as the plan to locate the jobs at Fort Belvoir. The primary consideration, he said, is meeting the base realignment deadline to move all jobs by September 2011.
Moran and Davis said they have referred representatives of Jones Lang LaSalle to the Army. Both said they consider the Victory Center a viable option but one that does not necessarily preclude using the GSA warehouse, too. Moran, in particular, took a strong role in the summer promoting the GSA site to Army officials.