Alexandria and Rockville are vying with each other to see which city can entice the World Bank to build its first suburban office complex within its jurisdiction.
During the past few months, the World Bank's facilities planning and design department has talked to economic development officials in both cities about building up to 1 million square feet of office space, but has made no decision.
"No decision has been made on anything," said Frederick Kranz, chief of facilities planning for the bank, headquartered at 18th and H streets NW in the District.
The World Bank houses its 6,000-plus employes in more than 3 million square feet of owned or leased office space in a maze of 16 buildings surrounding George Washington University's campus in Foggy Bottom, and along K Street between 18th and 20th streets.
The suburban complex would serve as long- and short-term training facilities, according to Virginia and Maryland officials involved in the discussions.
The Maryland site under consideration by the World Bank is known as the Westmont tract -- a 200-acre parcel between Interstate 270 and Rockville's Woodmont Country Club, north of Montrose Road.
The land in Virginia is adjacent to the Winkler Office Park on the north side of Shirley Highway near Beauregard Street and Seminary Road in Alexandria's west end.
"We met with World Bank officials to answer their questions about Rockville, and were told they were interested in building an employe training center to initially serve about 800 people," said Rockville city manager Richard V. Robinson.
"The kind of space they were talking about -- large classroom-type rooms, meeting rooms, audiovisual rooms -- would be very costly to build near their downtown location," Robinson said.
While officials in Alexandria and Rockville said it would be a coup to be able to count the World Bank among their corporate residents, its tax-exempt status -- because of the bank's international charter -- presents a problem to both revenue-hungry jurisdictions.
"We've made it clear to the developer of this particular tract that we would expect to see an equivalent in revenues to the city of Rockville, in lieu of real estate taxes," said Rockville Mayor Steven Van Grack.
"One of the primary reasons for allowing commercial zoning on the Westmont tract was to bring in more revenue. After all the controversy over the rezoning, residents would be outraged if they were asked to pay for the services for a tax-exempt corporation there. The World Bank understands this, and we are confident something can be worked out," Van Grack said.
Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran was less enthusiastic about the possibility of the World Bank setting up shop in his city.
"Frankly, we're not very enthusiastic about the World Bank coming to Alexandria, especially if they purchase the land. . . . A payment in lieu of taxes doesn't really cut it when compared to the revenue that could be generated by a commercial developer.
"While the City Council is impressed by the prestige the World Bank would bring to the community, we think we would prefer that land to be developed by a private, for-profit group," Moran said.
John T. Kenney, general partner in the joint-venture group of Westmont Associates and Tower Dawson Limited Partnership, which is developing the Rockville site, said, "If we come to terms with the World Bank we expect that they will need between 40 and 60 acres for their buildings or about 1 million square feet in office space."
Kenney said the mixed-use concept for the tract includes a 300-room hotel, another long-stay residential inn, restaurants, a health club and 275 town houses and garden apartments, and at least 1 million square feet in office space.
The Westmont tract also will have a 13-acre lake, with jogging trails, that will serve as a recreational and a storm water-management area for Rockville, Van Grack said.
"It will mark a new generation of office parks," Kenney said. "There's nothing like it in the Washington area."
Developers of the Rockville site would be obligated to build at least $3 million worth of road improvements, out of about $14 million planned for the area.
The Westmont tract is about three miles west of the Twinbrook and White Flint Metro stations on Rockville Pike.