Housing Complex

Ten Developers Respond to Federal Triangle South RFI

Ten developers have responded to a recent request for information on the redevelopment of a federal enclave south of the National Mall, according to a General Services Administration spokesman.

GSA, in collaboration with the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. Office of Planning, is working to overhaul the area in an effort to consolidate outdated federal government buildings and create a walkable neighborhood. The project, dubbed Federal Triangle South, is bounded by Independence Avenue to the north, 6th Street to the east, Maryland Avenue and D Street to the south, and 12th Street to the west and encompasses offices used by the Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and GSA itself.

GSA issued the RFI on Dec. 3; responses were due by Feb. 4. GSA spokesman Dan Cruz confirmed that 10 developers had responded, though he couldn't comment on the specifics of the responses.

I caught up with Dorothy Robyn, GSA's commissioner of the Public Building Service, this morning to ask about the project. While she likewise couldn't provide specifics of the responses, she said there was substantial interest among developers and that the project is "potentially a win-win" for developers and GSA.

The Federal Triangle South project coincides with another major federal agency overhaul downtown: The GSA is looking for a developer to trade a new FBI headquarters in the region for the obsolete J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Robyn says the FBI swap, while no mean feat, will probably be simpler than the Federal Triangle South redevelopment.

"Neither is simple," she says, "but I think the FBI is in relative terms simpler. There are many more moving parts on Federal Triangle South."

Robyn says GSA's "highest priority is to meet the mission needs of the federal agencies." The city, of course, has a different objective: to bring retail and street life to what's currently a lifeless concrete jungle. But Robyn says those two goals dovetail nicely.

"Federal workers are good customers, and they can support retail," she says. "It improves the quality of their life if there's retail there."

Robyn says the Department of Energy wants to remain on Independence Avenue, albeit possibly in a reconfigured building or group of buildings. While she believes security issues shouldn't prevent ground-floor retail at DOE, she's unsure whether retail is permitted along Independence. (I'm waiting to hear back from GSA with an update on this.) Elsewhere in Federal Triangle South, she expects ground-floor retail to be a central feature of the overhaul.

According to Genevieve Hanson, GSA's project manager for Federal Triangle South, GSA is looking to issue a request for proposals in August or September, to evaluate those proposals late this year, and to award a contract next spring.

"We heard from the development community that this is a wonderful opportunity," Hanson says of the responses to the RFI.

Federal Triangle South map from GSA.gov

Comments

  1. #1

    There were certainly other uses on Independence before the feds turned it into an office ghetto that dies at 4:30 every day. If it could be done once, why couldn't it be done again?

  2. #2

    ImGoph,

    There's no reason you couldn't put retail on Independence, but the real question is if you'd want to. If the area in question will have a limited amount of retail it can support, you would want to consider concentrating that space along a street (or streets) more amenable to shopping than Independence. 7th, a decked-over Maryland Ave, a developed 10th St (as per NCPC's SW Ecodistrict Plan) would all be good candidates.

    The north side of Indepedence isn't going to change, and those aren't going to be good retail buildings. Which isn't to say the south side of Independence should be blank walls and dead space - the buildings should activate the space, to be sure! But retail uses might not be the best approach along that particular street.

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