A conversation with Robert A. Peck

Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 26, 2010

With 362 million square feet of owned and leased office space -- enough to fill more than 5,600 football fields -- Robert A. Peck, the commissioner of public buildings for the General Services Administration, runs one of the biggest real estate portfolios in the country.

He oversees the construction and operations of the federal government's courthouses, border stations and office buildings for dozens of agencies, including the FBI, the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency. After serving five years in the job, Peck left for the private sector, where he worked as a commercial real estate broker. In August 2009, he came back to his spot at the GSA. Here are snippets from a recent 30-minute interview with Peck in his headquarters office at 18th and F streets NW.

Q How do you describe your job?

We're the government's landlord. I always remind people: That's really great until you remember that most everybody hates their landlord.

What are some of the big deals you're working on?

Health and Human Services is going to need more space in Baltimore and in the D.C. area, as they'll be hiring more people to carry out the health-care law over the next year or two. Baltimore is where they carry out Medicare and Medicaid, and those programs will expand in some form.

What's your favorite type of building to deal with? Border stations. They combine all the attributes of a highway toll booth and a jail, and they have the added mission of being a "welcome to the USA" signpost. That's what we tell architects they have to do in building them. People have to drive through, get searched. Some get detained, and for most everybody else, you want to put a friendly face on it.

You've been in this job, for the second time around, for six months. What are your priorities?

We're trying to re-engineer our leasing process.

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