By SYDNEY TONIC and KIMBERLY ESCOBAR
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – The final decision on the location of the new FBI headquarters is expected to be announced in December, and Maryland state and local officials are optimistic their state will get the nod.
Two of the three possible sites are Greenbelt and Landover in Maryland. The other is Springfield, Va.
The FBI headquarters, currently located in the hulking J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, houses about 5,000 employees. The Hoover Building was built in 1975, but after 40 years, the General Services Administration has determined the structure no longer meets the FBI’s needs.
The Hoover building houses only slightly more than half of the FBI headquarters’ employees, and there are multiple FBI divisions scattered throughout the Washington metropolitan area that will be consolidated in one location when a new headquarters is built.
Garth E. Beall, an attorney who is the developer for the Greenbelt site, said the GSA started to seek interest for a new site in 2009, but the deep recession at the time forced the agency to put the search on hold.
“They did confirm that the mission of the FBI changed after 9/11 and they had significantly more employees than they had before 9/11 and they had outgrown the Hoover Building; it was falling down,” Beall said.
In December of 2012, the GSA issued a request for information seeking developers interested in housing a consolidated FBI headquarters. In July of 2014, the agency selected the two sites in Maryland and one in Virginia as finalists.
The government envisions a building of 2.1 million square feet to accommodate 11,055 employees, at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion.
“Generally, the site should be served by mass transit, have adequate surrounding highways infrastructure, and be in substantial conformance with local land use plans,” Kevin Perkins, the associate director of the FBI, told Congress in 2013.
David Iannucci, Prince George’s County assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, said in an interview with Capital News Service he did not want to choose between Greenbelt and Landover, but did give reasons why either place would meet the FBI’s requirements.
“The Greenbelt site is an excellent site,” Iannucci said. “It has very strong mass transit opportunities, it meets the security requirements for the GSA and FBI, and it also meets all of their logistical requirements as well as cost and so forth.”
“The Landover site is clear, it’s ready to be developed, it’s the largest of the three sites, it’s got outstanding highway access, and it could provide and meet all the GSA and FBI requirements,” he said.
In Springfield, the site for the new headquarters is currently occupied by a government-owned warehouse that is operated by the GSA, according to Fred Selden, director of Fairfax County’s Department of Development and Planning. Springfield would prefer not to partner with a private developer, he said.
“We thought that not only was the site convenient to Metro and other attributes, but it was also a redevelopment that could be accomplished using government land,” Selden said.
With plans to build around the Greenbelt Metro before FBI headquarters relocation news was announced, Beall said that a lot of the preparatory work already was done.
“The preliminary plan, constructional site plan, and the storm water plans… all of those had been advanced very far along before we even started pursuing the FBI headquarters as a potential use for the site,” he said.
Frank Hoeppel, an employee at the Department of Agriculture, said as he was leaving the Greenbelt Metro station that the residents would benefit greatly from the FBI moving there.
“Generally speaking, I think it’s a great thing for suburban Maryland and I think it’s a really good thing for Greenbelt. Obviously you’re bringing (in) a lot of jobs, you’re bringing in people who are going to be interested in moving closer to the facility,” Hoeppel said.
At each of the three sites, officials have said they have received largely positive feedback.
Still, there has been concern among some area residents about the impact such a large facility could have on local traffic. In order to address such worries, Beall said that he is working with Metro to put together a plan to combat traffic around the Metro station.
“We are replacing all the Metro facilities there, other than the station itself,” Beall said. “The first part of it really is we build the garage south of the parking lot, so that it doesn’t interfere with the existing parking at all.”
If the FBI headquarters were to come to Greenbelt, Hoeppel acknowledged it will get more crowded at the Greenbelt station.
“Other stations are very crowded and people move on with their lives and do fine with it,” Hoeppel said. “I think, overall, the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot.”
The GSA declined to comment on the project for this story.