Donald P. Young's July 18 Close to Home article, "Alexandria Has More Than a Bridge to Worry About," painted an inaccurate picture of the proposed U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) project. As noted, Young has filed a lawsuit against the General Services Administration (GSA) and the PTO in federal District Court. What wasn't noted was that his co-plaintiff in that suit is the Charles E. Smith Co., owner of many of the buildings that the PTO now occupies in Crystal City. Smith, contrary to Young's contention, competed for the PTO project based on both renovation of existing buildings and new construction. However, Smith did not win the competition.
The consolidation of the PTO offices has been planned for almost a decade. The PTO now is housed in 18 facilities, some of which are more than 30 years old and would require substantial renovation to satisfy the basic requirements of any office tenant. The Carlyle site was the highest-rated site for new PTO offices, and it offered the lowest price.
As part of its planning, the GSA complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and analyzed the environmental impact of all offered sites, including anticipated traffic and the cumulative effects associated with other projects in the area. This was a public process during which the GSA asked for, received and considered comments from the public as well as from interested local, state and federal agencies. Young raised his objections only after the final document was published.
In acquiring a consolidated headquarters for the PTO, the GSA did what was best for taxpayers -- it complied with all applicable laws and regulations; conducted a full, open and fundamentally fair competition; and selected the best and most economical plan, which was to build at the Carlyle site in Alexandria.
-- Anthony E. Costa
is the assistant regional administrator of GSA's Public Buildings Service.
All land-use decisions result in telling someone no. A corollary is that if someone is not mad at you all the time, you are not doing your job. The recent decision to locate the PTO at the Carlyle site in Alexandria shows that neither of these truths is in jeopardy.
In December 1994 the Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the PTO's relocation to Alexandria. The council said the PTO would generate jobs and development and would be a stable source of growth and prosperity for the city. That resolution was adopted with an understanding that one of the potential sites for the PTO was at Carlyle. Since the adoption of that resolution, the completion and occupancy of one of the large residential condominium buildings at Carlyle Towers has occurred. Nevertheless, the significant economic benefits to Alexandria for a commercial development of the PTO's stature remain the same.
Virginia cities cannot expand their boundaries, and Alexandria has few "developable" sites of consequence left. Over time, taxes will have to increase, but we are trying to do everything possible to avoid their rising too much, too often or too fast. If we are to build more schools or improve our existing ones, pay our public employees and improve our road system, we need economic development or we face the prospect of citizens having to shoulder a greater and greater tax burden.
The site where the PTO will locate has been approved for a large, mixed-use development since April 1990, and the square footage required by the PTO is well within authorized limits. Everyone who has moved into Carlyle Towers should have known that a large, mixed-use development was approved for the surrounding tract before the towers were built, but changes required by the PTO are significant. The main building will be higher, parking will be above ground instead of underground and the roads will change -- but the city must adapt or lose this vital economic opportunity.
The PTO will change the dynamics of how people use the site, and we will have to be attentive to avoid a sterile, "dead-at-night" neighborhood. But we are committed to making this project a success for everyone.
Clearly, traffic will be a major issue. If we are going to make the improvements necessary to improve traffic flow, we will need to improve access routes and traffic patterns. We will do that by spending a lot of money, and there's that old economic thing again.
One of the benefits of the PTO coming to the Carlyle site is that a single user allows the infrastructure improvements to be made in a much shorter time. The original plans approved for Carlyle included as long as 15 years for roads and access to be built and improved. Now we can require improvements to be made in conjunction with the building construction, and that should benefit everyone.
Further, by locating a commercial use of this magnitude at the Carlyle, we can take enormous advantage of the mass transit systems already in place -- Metro, VRE and Amtrak. Employees of the PTO already are among the heaviest users of mass transit and car pooling of any commercial or governmental body in the country. One-third of PTO employees commute by some method other than single-driver automobiles. The expectation is that with these transportation systems more readily available at Carlyle, the mass transit and car pooling use will rise.
The PTO relocation offers Alexandria an extraordinary opportunity. Many people will be pleased, some will not, but our goal is to make the PTO a success at Carlyle for all Alexandrians.
-- David G. Speck
is a member of the Alexandria City Council; his views are shared by Alexandria Mayor Kerry J. Donley, Vice Mayor William D. Euille and council members Lonnie C. Rich and Lois L. Walker.