Army Narrows Realignment Alternatives To 3 Properties

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008

The U.S. Army has narrowed to three the properties it is considering for relocating 6,200 employees originally slated to move to Fort Belvoir in southeastern Fairfax County, Army officials said.

They said the Army will consider two privately owned commercial properties in Alexandria, the Mark Center near Interstate 395 and Seminary Road and the Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue. Five private parcels have been eliminated from consideration, including the 2,000-acre Harbor Station community in the Quantico area of Prince William County and a proposed Manassas Park development called Blooms Grove Station.

The two Alexandria tracts will compete with a government-owned property in Springfield, where a General Services Administration warehouse stands, Army officials said. A decision is expected in June.

"Proposals submitted by the selected developers will be evaluated by the Army to determine which offers the best value to the government," an Army statement said. "That site will then be compared to the federally owned GSA site in Springfield in terms of relative value."

At issue is an effort to modify a 2005 decision by the Army and Congress to shift more than 20,000 jobs, most from Arlington County, to the Fort Belvoir complex outside the Capital Beltway. That decision, part of a larger base realignment endeavor, was intended to put defense jobs, some of them sensitive, in more secure locations. But Fairfax officials and Northern Virginia congressional leaders decried the decision because of its likely adverse effect on traffic.

As a result, Army officials agreed to look at the possibility of shifting 6,200 jobs to Springfield, where the GSA warehouse sits next to the Franconia-Springfield Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations. At the urging of congressional leaders and property owners, the Army officials agreed to also look at private properties.

Fairfax is promoting the GSA site for its proximity to transit and because the major influx of jobs would help long-standing efforts to revitalize Springfield. The warehouse has long been targeted for relocation by county officials, who would rather see a transit-oriented development that attracts workers, shoppers and residents to the downtown area.

"The GSA site is an incompatible use in the Springfield location," said Mark Canale, Fairfax's base realignment coordinator.

"We have a major transit facility, with integrated bus service, rail service and very easy access to I-95 and the Beltway."

Alexandria officials, as well as Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), have been promoting sites in that jurisdiction.

Owners of the private tracts are banking on their advantages. The Victory Center, owned by Jones Lang LaSalle, features an existing building shell with an interior that could be renovated relatively quickly to suit the Army's needs. It also has access to the Van Dorn Street Metro station. But Fairfax officials say that access to Victory Center would be complicated by construction of an interchange at Telegraph Road, to be completed in 2013.

The Mark Center has neither Metro nor VRE access, but its owner, the Mark Winkler Co., is promoting the potential of shuttle buses to and from the Pentagon and its transit facilities.

The GSA site has the best access to mass transit and highways. But it would require extensive demolition, reconstruction and environmental mitigation. The federal government also would have to find a new warehouse location. The federal base realignment law requires the shifts to be carried out by 2011.

Other factors the Army will consider -- factors that influenced its decision to narrow the field of contenders -- include the security of the properties, distance from roadways and cost of procurement.

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