Trammel Crow still negotiating Fort Meade lease

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, July 5, 2010; 7

Nearly four years after selecting developer Trammell Crow to build a major office complex at Fort Meade, the base is still negotiating a final agreement.

The complex is intended to house some of the thousands of contractors expected at the installation located between Baltimore and Washington, where the Defense Information Systems Agency is relocating and U.S. Cyber Command is launching.

But Bert Rice, base realignment and closure project officer at Fort Meade, said it has been challenging to wrap up the master lease, the document laying out exactly how many buildings Trammell Crow can build -- and what Fort Meade will get in return.

In 2006, Trammell Crow was selected from a group of four contractors to develop two parcels encompassing 160 acres on the base. Under the terms of the deal, Trammell Crow would effectively own everything on the parcels for 50 years. After that, Fort Meade would take control, and, in the meantime, the base is to be compensated with in-kind building services -- such as road repairs or a new athletic complex -- from the developer.

"I think we're going to get there," Rice said of completing the lease. "It's a matter of finalizing the deal and what's going to be provided to the installation, because we're interested in trying to get something upfront that we can really sink our teeth into."

Speaking to a state board in June, Rice would not speculate on whether Fort Meade might reopen negotiations with one of the other three developers who previously competed but was firm on Fort Meade's requirements.

"If there's not something in it for us, we're not going to do it," he said of the lease.

Trammell Crow insists the project -- expected to include 1.7 million square feet in eight to 12 buildings -- is on track. Gregory Crum, Trammell Crow's development manager for the project, said the company expects to begin construction on the first building in the fall. Typically it takes a year to a year and a half to complete a building, he said.

Separately, Trammell Crow, Anne Arundel County and the state also have to work out how much the company owes in a payment in lieu of taxes, as mandated by state legislation passed two years ago. Robert C. Leib, who handles BRAC issues for the county, said negotiations have not begun, and Crum said the company will begin negotiating once its deal with Fort Meade is finalized.

Some contractors have already moved to or expanded in other complexes in the Fort Meade area. Whether Trammell Crow's development will miss out on key tenants is a "key question," Rice acknowledged.

"The sooner that we can consummate this deal, then they'll be able to build and go after that potential market," he said.

Crum said interest remains high.

"We are so close to the front gate that the contractors will be able to serve the federal agencies and be within [the agencies'] space in a matter of five to 10 minutes," he said.

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