Housing Complex

Deputy Mayor Concedes D.C. Is “Effectively Ineligible” to Retain FBI

poplar point

A senior city official has admitted what we already know: D.C. has basically no chance of preventing the Federal Bureau of Investigation from leaving town.

Of course, it's an open question whether D.C. officials really want to retain the FBI, or whether they should. The agency is looking to leave its outdated headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, giving the city an opportunity to turn the hulking brutalist building into a pedestrian-friendly, amenity-rich, property tax-paying private development. If the feds built a new FBI headquarters elsewhere in D.C., it'd face the same problem as at the Hoover Building: security regulations that require deep setbacks and limit retail options, and the opportunity cost of not being able to use the land for civic purposes.

Nonetheless, Mayor Vince Gray pitched Poplar Point, on the banks of the Anacostia River, as D.C.'s most suitable site for a new FBI building in March. But now, Gray's top deputy for development is conceding that it's a lost cause.

Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins wrote a letter last week to the head of the General Services Administration, which serves as the federal government's landlord, complaining that the GSA's criteria for an FBI site "render District sites effectively ineligible for consideration."

In the letter to GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini (himself a former D.C. government official), first reported by the Washington Post, Hoskins notes that the GSA solicitation for FBI sites released last month sought about 50 acres of land. Poplar Point, currently owned by the federal government, is about 110 acres, but a federal law stipulates that 70 of those acres remain open space. Of the remaining 40 acres, D.C. proposed building an FBI headquarters on 10 acres, with the additional space being used for neighborhood development. The D.C. proposal envisioned a high-density FBI site that would still contain the required square footage.

Additionally, Hoskins wrote, the GSA solicitation "expresses a disfavor for sites that ... might 'impact' certain natural resources such as wetlands and/or floodplains [which] appears to necessarily place an urban, riverfront site such as Poplar Point at a significant competitive disadvantage."

Hoskins concluded his letter, "While the noted criteria do not explicitly prevent a submission, the District would have appreciated competing in a process that didn’t have the appearance of eliminating Poplar Point as a possible relocation site from the start."

According to the Post, the city still plans to resubmit its Poplar Point proposal to the GSA, "effectively ineligible" though it may be.

Update 5:25 p.m.: GSA spokesman Dan Cruz emails the following statement clarifying that the District is by no means disqualified from the competition for the FBI headquarters:

The District is encouraged to submit their site and our process is designed to advance all acceptable sites into a competitive procurement process that will allow us to select the site and development proposal that provides the best overall value to the taxpayers.

The ad states that GSA anticipates approximately 50 acres would be needed to satisfy this project based on assumptions regarding building height, density, and security requirements.However, the language regarding the acreage is not a minimum nor a maximum requirement; it is a general ballpark figure.  Smaller sites that satisfy all minimum requirements of square footage, security, access to public transit, and access to the Capital Beltway will be considered.

Again, the District is encouraged to submit their site.

Map from the D.C. submission to the GSA

  • http://www.davidgarber.com David Garber

    Good. Don't waste Anacostia's waterfront on a walled government complex.

  • Nikki Peele

    Agreed. Ward 8 neither wants or needs another walled off government complex.

    Now can we finally get some development that includes some amneties and retail?

  • Mirta

    Have you even seen it? It doesn't have to be a walled fortress, the present one is not.

    The AWs, David Alperts, their legions of real estate agent fans, Lydia depillises of the world - all fantasize about a governmentless-washington, dc. Go ahead.

    Best comment I ever read on this site: DC has the dumbest smart people.

  • Nikki Peele

    I live and work in Ward 8. Believe me, I have seen enough. Anacostia's waterfront deserves much better. Between the Bolling and Anacostia military bases and Saint Elizabeths campus I think Ward 8 has had their fill of "secure" sites.

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  • Kevin

    Giving Poplar Point to the FBI would be a waste of a tremendous site with the potential to be a really community asset.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, FBI.

  • SEis4ME

    I agree. FBI@Poplar Point would be a terrible idea and I have no doubt the Mayor knows it. But as a matter of pretending to want to keep the FBI in DC..I get it.

    FWIW, I'm not convinced the Alpert's of the world are encouraging Poplar as a realistic idea. But I could be wrong.

  • Calvin H. Gurley

    Mr. Hopskins…like other executive officials and elected officials lack creative talent and foreseeable economic opportunities that will accommodate the FBI Headquarters to remain in the District of Columbia. Our government officials are just slow thinkers and whom follow (instead of lead) other states and jurisdictions accomplishments to serve as their own inventions.*A

    As I stated for a year now, relocate the FBI Headquarters to Walter Reed Army Hospital Campus to bring those same downtown restaurants, eateries, café shops, and hotels (who have served those 20,000 plus FBI employees at 9th and E Street, N.W.) to the “under developed” Georgia Avenue / Eastern Avenue, N.W. corridor. “Man O’ Man”; just imagine the new face of Georgia Avenue with a resurgence of small businesses and retail, hotel and restaurant operating similar to the Verizon Center or the 14th Street –Tivoli venues.

    *A – No Creative Juice Elected Officials and City Government Officials

    Whoever is supporting the H Street Trolley System construction (a now $1 billion dollar Black Hole) should be fired and mandated to pay back to D.C. residents the one billion dollar that was wasted.

    Would well renowned financier Mr. Warren Buffet invest in an old, transit idea of cable cars or in the Prince Georges Maryland Gaylord/Harbor Place’s MGM Las Vegas Casino and Grand Hotel?

    As your new D.C. Council member, I will strongly support building a similar Caesars, Bellagio or Wynn Casino and Grand Hotel at the location of Buzzard Point. Why should PG Maryland Gaylord be the only game in town…offering high stakes GAMBLING, a Las Vegas style and class casino with a grand hotel. Plays, stage shows, promoted HBO Boxing events and more will be coming to Buzzard Point and our D.C. Las Vegas Casino and Grand Hotel.

    D.C. residents will have to break ground immediately…we cannot afford to allow Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry and Rashan Baker to control all the possible billions in tourist dollars. Or, the next Mayor will make up this missed opportunity by locating jay walk cameras in every neighborhood for the short fall in potential and future tourist/Casino revenue.

    Come on …with me D.C residents and lets enjoy it while getting the D.C. Government out of our pockets from placing more speed and stop light cameras in our communities – their [Gov’t] only worn out method to generate revenue for the District.

    Calvin H. Gurley
    D.C. City Council Candidate 2014

  • Stephen

    I'd like to say that I'm happy with Mr. Cruz's response, which reiterated that the 50-acre amount was an estimate, not a rule. The conditions of the bid allowed a lot of leeway on how the facility could be built, and a high-density development with minimal parking could probably fit on Poplar Point and other DC sites.

    There are all kinds of good reasons to let the FBI leave, but let's not use some ballpark estimate of a building footprint as the reason why.

  • cminus

    @Mirta, the FBI has explicitly ruled out having the new FBI building laid out anything like the old one. The current FBI building is built on 7 acres of land and has 1 million square feet of office space. The proposed new FBI building would have 2.1 million square feet of office space on about 50 acres of land. By way of comparison, the Pentagon is built on under 34 acres of land, including 5 acres for the courtyard, and it has 3.7 million square feet of office space. So the FBI plans to have half the office space of the Pentagon, but on half again as much land.

    So what's the extra land for? Security. The current FBI building security is mostly aimed at human-level threats. There are no other businesses within its footprint (unlike civilian office buildings, which frequently have stores or restaurants at ground level), to stop someone from entering the secured building via an unsecured tenant, and lots of checkpoints to discourage intruders (which, as a side effect, discourage people in the building from leaving for lunch or errands during the day). The new FBI building is also supposed to be protected against larger-scale events, however, like truck bombings or other terrorist attacks -- and that means a walled fortress.

  • Luis Sanchez

    Could we convince the FBI to stay in the same location if allowed them to scrap the old building for a taller more functional and beautiful construction so long as it remains shorter than 310 ft (height of old Post Office building). This way the can obtain the space they need with out leaving the district.

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