City Desk

FBI Headquarters Will Not Stay in D.C.

It's official: D.C., for better or worse, won't be able to keep the FBI headquarters within city limits. The agency has long been trying to leave its outdated, Brutalist digs on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and has been looking at new headquarter sites in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.

Today, the U.S. General Service Administration announced its short list of possibile locations for the FBI's new headquarters, and it looks like the G-Men are heading to the 'burbs. Per the GSA, the shortlisted sites are:

  • Greenbelt - A portion of the site known as the Greenbelt Metro Station located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and Exit 24 (Greenbelt Station) in Prince George's County, Maryland.
  • Landover – The site known as the former Landover Mall located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and MD 202 in Prince George's County, Maryland.
  • Springfield – The site known as the GSA Franconia Warehouse Complex located near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Franconia Road in Fairfax County, Virginia.

As my colleague Aaron Wiener previously reported, even D.C. officials conceded that the city was "effectively ineligible" to retain the FBI headquarters based on what GSA said it was seeking: Approximately 50 acres of space and the ability to meet top government security requirements. Still, D.C. proposed Ward 8's Polar Point on the banks of the Anacostia River as a contender.

The FBI has been in its current J. Edgar Hoover Building since 1975. Once it vacates, the city will have the opportunity to redevelop the property.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Kevin

    Using a place like Poplar Point –- riverside land with tremendous potential -- for a giant, high security government complex would have been an incredible waste.

    Poplar Point development is way past due. It should be turned into a mix of parkland, offices and residences.

  • Jeffrey

    No wonder, Polar Point sounds chilly!

  • Bac

    The problem is less that the FBI is vacating the nation's capital than that people at pubs like the CityPaper and the usual blogging suspects advocate for them to move. I can only thank my lucky stars I did not overpay for my home like so many others because the day is coming when DC is going to be hollowed out. The problem is, again, there are not enough people in the media who understand what this means in order to convey it to their readers, the populace.

    With each agency move outside the city, DC becomes less and less relevant. While many thousands have moved in, let's not fool ourselves. The culture is work, and without places to work, the people here aren't dedicated, energetic, or creative enough to establish some kind of alternative life or community or economy to sustain them all. You have to have employers. Like it or not, the federal city is the reason people have moved here throughout these years. Who will want to move to a place with a bunch of young singles in micro apartments paying thousands more than the place is worth?

  • FBI Guy

    @Bac... What are you talking about? DC has more jobs now than at any point in its history (roughly 760,000) and continues to add thousands of additional non-government jobs each year. The fact that DC is broadening its economy beyond federal jobs is huge for the long term health of the city. What's more, DC will benefit tremendously in the coming years from the relocation of thousands of suburban based government agencies back to the core (in more densely filled government owned buildings)-- specifically in areas like SW DC, Foggy Bottom and Anacostia. Lastly, the ugly FBI site on Pennsylvania Ave will be redeveloped into something vastly more productive for DC -- a site which will add substantial mixed-use vitality (and significant tax revenue)to a what is currently an undesirable, tax exempt urban dead zone. If anything, pity the poor FBI workers who have to move out of Penn Quarter, not DC or its citizens...

  • Bac

    Some in this group you write about

    -- If anything, pity the poor FBI workers who have to move out of Penn Quarter, not DC or its citizens...--

    are one and the same. And I do pity the poor FBI workers. They do not want to move.

    "What's more, DC will benefit tremendously in the coming years from the relocation of thousands of suburban based government agencies back to the core (in more densely filled government owned buildings)-- specifically in areas like SW DC, Foggy Bottom and Anacostia."

    Ok. What agencies are these?

  • Bac

    I replied - so it's up to CityPaper to post it.

  • Perry Stein

    apologies for the delay on that one.

  • FBI Guy

    Okay, if you look at the SW Federal Triangle plan which GSA is working on right now, you will see that the Feds plan to relocate up to 20,000 government workers from various leased satellite offices from several government agencies (DoE, HHS, DoT, etc.) in the next five to ten years. The vast majority of these employees will come from places like Rockville, Silver Spring and Falls Church. As one very recent example, GSA is moving several hundred employees from the suburbs (Silver Spring) to the HHS building at the foot of Capitol Hill in 2015. In addition, whole agencies like TSA are planning to move their entire divisions into the city from leased space (they currently are on a short term lease in Arlington) to government owned space in DC. Another example is the State Department taking over the former Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgury Campus on 23rd Street -- the original home of the CIA -- and consolidating ALL of their Northern Virginia satellite operations (currently located in Arlington) to that site (this will include a few thousand employees). I think the chief point is that government agencies have been moving in and out of DC since World War 2 (the CIA, DoD, NIST, FDA, NSF, etc.)... despite that the District has continued to add jobs (over 200,000 since 1980) and in the process the city has managed to diversify its economy. Frankly I think because of the current pressures from Congress and the change in culture at GSA more govenment jobs will be moving back to the core rather than leaving during the next few years -- the FBI being a notable exception. Once again, though, that relocation is a unique situation -- the District should truly benefit from having a (hopefully) first-class redevelopment which will create significant tax revenue and (again hopefully) vitality (new private sector jobs and housing) for the city for years to come.

  • Sancho

    Nice post FBI guy.

  • Bac

    I did not know all that. But it's in the works as you say. Let's hope it pans all the way out. DC cannot become a capital in name only. To lose the FBI is pretty bad in my estimation. And we should all be fighting harder both to keep our governmental agencies from being too overdemanding with their land needs and security needs, and making their surrounds ugly in the process. It does not have to be that way. To have Jane Jacobs here in the flesh, working. Ah, to dream. Too many short-term thinkers.

    Unfortunately the mayor was glad to see the FBI go. And I'm afraid with the superficial thinking of the media, other politicos will similarly not be thinking the issue all the way through.

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