The Federal Communications Commission, after years of controversy and at least two proposals to move the agency to Virginia, will remain in its current offices at 1919 M St. NW.
Richard O. Haase, commissioner of the General Services Administration's Public Building Service confirmed this week that a new lease will soon be signed with 1919 M Street Associates, Inc., the building owners.
"We're not going to relocate them because leasing costs have come way down at their headquarters building and this is the best deal available," said a GSA official, indicating that a soft office rental market helped bring down the price. There were no specifics available as to the rate GSA will pay.
As a result, 1,200 FCC employes will continue to work in 170,000 square feet of office space at the headquarters building. Another 400 people work at 2225 M St. NW (in 69,000 square feet of space) and 120 employes work at 1200 19th St. NW (in 25,000 square feet of space).
The lease brings full circle a saga that began in 1979, when the FCC decided it wanted to consolidate its staff from five leased buildings in Washington into one new headquarters. FCC commissioners decided that the easiest way to get what they wanted was to ask Congress for the right to negotiate their own building lease because the government's leasing agent -- the GSA -- had no intention of crafting the costly move.
After Congress agreed, the FCC hired the real estate firm of Julian J. Studley Inc. to locate new offices. In February, 1981, the FCC commissioners voted to move into Studley's first choice: 19 floors of the Twin Towers building in Rosslyn. But because of pressure from Capitol Hill and FCC employes, the deal fell through and Studley was told it would not get its promised commission.
When the FCC's authority to negotiate leases expired at the end of fiscal 1981, it was forced to turn back to GSA in its quest for a new home.
Forcing the issue was the fact that 1919 M St. Associates wanted the federal goverment to move because there was a strong demand for office space in Washington, and they believed they could make a much better deal than leasing to the federal government.
The GSA knew that and, after a lengthy study, concluded that the most cost-effective move would be into a planned building in the Hoffman Building complex in Alexandria, near the intersection of the Beltway and Telegraph Road.
But this time the FCC balked.
FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler wrote to GSA Administrator Gerald P. Carmen that the move to Alexandria was unacceptable, and outlined three objections:
* Uncertainty over the FCC's budget "which, in turn, will ultimately dictate the amount of space we will need";
* The impact of the move on FCC employe morale;
* The impact of the move on those groups that do business with the commission on a daily basis. Fowler included a bundle of letters from such organizations as American Telephone & Telegraph, the National Association of Broadcasters, MCI, Media Access Project, and various law firms.
While this was happening, a major change took place in the downtown office rental market. Scores of new buildings added space to the market while, at the same time, the federal budget was being cut and the private sector going into recession.
The owners of 1919 M soon realized that they might have difficulty replacing the FCC and expressed renewed interest in keeping their federal tenant.
Thomas P. Campbell, the FCC's associate managing director for operations, said the deal for 1919 M Street was "anticipated, because circumstances have changed; the cost of renting space in this building is going down."
Campbell said he believed that GSA was responsive to Fowler's contention that industry trade groups and attorneys would be severely impacted if the move went ahead.
"If you generate significant costs in the public . . . , forcing people who have to deal with us to pay enormous taxi fares to work with us in Alexandria then those costs should be considered," Campbell said.
Besides keeping the FCC in the city, Fowler asked Carmen to renegotiate the lease at 1200 19th St. so the 400 employes now working at 2225 M Street could relocate.
While GSA has negotiated what it calls a "good deal" at 1919 M, agency officials say Fowler can forget about the rest of the deal.
GSA spokesman Dale Bruce said "we couldn't do it. We could not honor that mini-consolidation. It was fully addressed by our officials, but it would have left us with a position of paying bucks for vacant space at 2225 M St."
Several members of Congress, including Rep. Paul J. Trible, Jr. (R-Va.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), have expressed opposition to keeping the FCC in Washington, saying they view the move to Alexandria as cost-effective. Stevens' press secretary said the senator was no longer interested in the matter and Trible's did not return repeated telephone calls.
Another congressman who had wanted the GSA arrangement to go through for Alexandria was Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.).
"It's unfortunate," said Richard Leggitt, Parris' press secretary. "I don't know why they can't find the Metro convenient." The Hoffman complex is just blocks from the soon-to-open Huntington Metro stop.
Meanwhile, GSA officials claim they've already wasted thousands of dollars trying to arrange the new quarters for the FCC in the Hoffman complex. In addition, the FCC has been forced to pay a reported $198,000 as a settlement to the Studley company in brokerage fees.