A federal judge yesterday cleared the way for the federal government to try again to dispose of a valuable tract of federally owned property in downtown Washington. The sale has been entangled for 15 years in bureaucratic wrangling.
U.S. District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the General Services Administration did not have to accept what the federal government called a "below fair market value" bid on the $13 million site, once intended to house a new headquarters building for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
The decision allows GSA to put the property up for sale again, and officials indicated they will do so by May. The federal government's effort to sell the property, which lies between D, E, Third and Fourth streets NW, has been frustrated by disputes among government agencies, the District of Columbia government and private bidders.
The Marine Engineers Beneficial Association Pension Trust made the highest offer in the latest round of bidding, in 1981, but GSA rejected the bid even after the trust increased its offer to $9.6 million at the agency's request.
The trust sued, claiming that GSA's decision was arbitrary and unlawful, but Green ruled that federal law allows the government to "reject all bids without liability."
"We've been waiting a long time for this," said Earl E. Jones, GSA assistant commissioner for real property. "It's the type of property that I'd like to get out to make the federal land sales program a success."