Fort Belvoir BRAC moves may not prompt contractor relocations

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, August 16, 2010

With just over a year remaining to complete the Pentagon's base realignment program, Fort Belvoir -- with offices in three Northern Virginia sites -- is accelerating efforts to build up its infrastructure.

It remains unclear how business -- and particularly government contractors -- will respond. Unlike at Fort Meade or Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where contractors are flocking to support military organizations like the National Security Agency, the main Belvoir campus doesn't boast a "contractor corridor."

Fort Belvoir's local sites include the Mark Center in Alexandria, a campus in Springfield and its main base.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at industry trade group the Professional Services Council, said new activity at the main installation will draw contractors but that they are constrained by a shortage of commercial office property. At the same time, the base does not have as large an on-site contractor workforce as other locations and existing contractor outposts in Tysons Corner and Dulles are reasonably nearby.

"I don't hear anybody clamoring for new office space to be right around Belvoir the way I do at Meade or at Aberdeen," Chvotkin said.

Debi Sandlin, executive director of Southeast Fairfax Development, a public-private nonprofit established to build business along the Route 1 corridor, said she expect a number of subcontractors to relocate.

"I think we will see more of those type of contractors coming to this area" once they get work at Belvoir and the economy improves, Sandlin said.

In the meantime, the military is busily readying for the growth, which will total nearly 20,000 employees (accounting for some organizations that are leaving) at the three locations. The site in Springfield welcomed guests last week at a ceremony for a new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director. The site -- which is about 83 percent complete -- will soon be home to about 8,500 of the agency's 16,000 employees.

Construction continues on the 130-acre parcel of land, which will include an eight-story main building for NGA headquarters. The site will consolidate the agency's local employees, who now work in about a half-dozen locations, including facilities in Bethesda, Reston and the Washington Navy Yard.

At the main Belvoir campus, the three key roads on the facility are being doubled in size -- from two lanes to four -- to accommodate an increase of about 3,400 employees. The bulk of the growth -- about 2,000 employees -- is linked to a new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, an $807 million project nearing completion.

The Mark Center in Alexandria is slated to provide space for more than 6,000 employees from 24 Defense Department agencies now using leased space in the region. The facility includes two office towers -- one 17 stories high and one 15 stories -- as well as two parking garages and is about half finished.

However, the site is facing challenges from Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who remains concerned about the impact of the building on traffic. Earlier this month, he sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressing his concern about the toll the additional traffic will take on both the federal workforce and local commuters. A measure sponsored by Moran has been approved by the House of Representatives to postpone the transfer of workers to the Mark Center until the Pentagon has plans in place to ease commutes and implement road improvements.

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