Yesterday (Monday, December 3, 2012), GSA formally sought new ideas on how to develop a consolidated FBI headquarters campus—possibly by exchanging the much maligned J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) FBI Building (and the land on which it stands) to a private developer who would build a new campus elsewhere—and on how to redevelop the cluster of federal buildings in Southwest D.C. now known as Federal Triangle South. The agency issued two requests for information (RFIs), with responses to the Federal Triangle South RFI due by February 4 and those to the FBI one due on March 4. Both were made possible by a 2005 law that authorizes GSA to engage in special financing deals to exchange, trade, lease, or otherwise negotiate for new construction or renovation programs.
“An exchange of the FBI headquarters not only saves money, but it also promotes efficiency by consolidating staff into a single state-of-the-art facility, shrinking the federal real estate footprint and eliminating multiple leases,” said GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini yesterday. “With Federal Triangle South, we will contribute to a more sustainable neighborhood by creating opportunities for development, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars by redeveloping outdated and underutilized properties.”
As we’ve noted earlier, GSA has been seeking a new location for a consolidated FBI headquarters for almost a year. While the JEH Building has few fans, its “superblock” location fronting Pennsylvania Avenue offers a dazzling opportunity for redevelopment in the heart of downtown D.C. The 6.7 acres of land are zoned for office, retail, housing, mixed-use, and public buildings. Although GSA would like to exchange the property for a new FBI campus, its RFI notes that “GSA recognizes the complexity and size of such a transaction, and welcomes responses that address only the new facility, JEH, or utilize private/private or non-Federal public/private partnerships to accomplish the objective.” However the deal is structured, GSA is hoping it will pay for all or most of the new facility, since few federal dollars have been available for construction projects in recent years, a situation that we do not expect to change.
The Federal Triangle South RFI asks for ideas on how to redevelop a 22-acre area bounded by Independence Avenue to the north, Sixth Street to the east, Maryland Avenue and portions of D Street to the south, and 12th Street to the west. The area contains five federal office buildings –the U.S. Department of Energy’s Forrestal Complex, its Cotton Annex, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Orville and Wilbur Wright Buildings, and GSA’s regional office building—and is near the Mall and within the larger planned Southwest DC Ecodistrict. That RFI “seeks to leverage the expertise of the real estate industry” to meet those agencies’ long-term space needs; develop a vision that stimulates a vibrant mix of uses while contributing to the area’s vitality; leverages existing planning recommendations; and achieves “best value to the Government and Taxpayers, through the most beneficial technical and financial solution.”
These RFIs are only the first of many steps in what will be two long processes. Congress likely will need to approve any deals, and GSA will need to issue formal requests for proposals (RFPs) after it reviews the responses it receives.