FBI triggers Washington mystery - where will its new HQ be?

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 8, 2013 12:39pm EST

The main headquarters of the FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is seen in Washington in this file photo taken March 4, 2012. The FBI's move to replace its cramped, crumbling and outmoded downtown headquarters has sparked a cross-border fight among local governments in Virginia, Maryland and the capital. Eager for the FBI's prestige and a plum deal in a slumping real estate market, local officials are plotting strategies and lining up congressional support to try to land the project. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files

The main headquarters of the FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is seen in Washington in this file photo taken March 4, 2012. The FBI's move to replace its cramped, crumbling and outmoded downtown headquarters has sparked a cross-border fight among local governments in Virginia, Maryland and the capital. Eager for the FBI's prestige and a plum deal in a slumping real estate market, local officials are plotting strategies and lining up congressional support to try to land the project.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government's move to replace the FBI's crumbling Washington headquarters, dismissed as "a dump" by one congresswoman, has sparked a fight between Virginia, Maryland and the capital for the billion-dollar project.

Early signs point to suburban Prince George's County in Maryland as the frontrunner as officials in the Washington area look for possible sites and line up political support.

"Clearly this is a war between Maryland and Virginia," with the District of Columbia thrown into the mix, said Jeff McKay, a supervisor with Virginia's Fairfax County, which is competing for the new Federal Bureau of Investigations headquarters.

The federal crime-busting agency clearly needs a new home. Its hulking headquarters, the 1970s-era J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, has nets rigged to catch falling stone from upper stories and rainwater floods the basement, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported last year.

The FBI headquarters staff has far outgrown the moated Brutalist-style building and its 2.4 million square foot (220,000 square meter) site. Staffers have nearly doubled to about 17,300 since the 2001 attacks on the United States and are scattered across 40 sites.

"A DUMP"

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's representative in Congress, said the building was an "outlier" blighting an up-and-coming area of downtown Washington.

"It's considered a dump that detracts from the neighborhood," she said.

The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal office management agency, put out solicitations last month to developers offering to swap the Hoover Building for 2.1 million square feet (200,000 square meters) of office space on 55 acres in the Washington area.

The FBI and GSA estimated a cost of about $1.2 billion to buy a site, then design and build a new headquarters. The estimated completion time is seven years.

The District of Columbia and Fairfax County and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties have all expressed eagerness to land the FBI project.

"This is a huge priority for Prince George's County," said Aubrey Thagard with the county's economic development office.

Prince George's has long complained that it is shortchanged by the federal government. The county has only 4 percent of federal leased office space in the region, but a quarter of the government work force lives there.

A raft of Maryland lawmakers, including powerful Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski and No. 2 House Democrat Representative Steny Hoyer, have backed Prince George's potential bid.

For their part, Virginia senators and representatives have touted their state as the FBI's future home. McKay, the Fairfax County supervisor, said he would attend a meeting with Virginia lawmakers this week on the FBI project.

Stephen Fuller, the head of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, said political backing for Prince George's County meant it was the favorite for the site.

The FBI project will be the biggest federal property deal in the capital area for the next 10 to 15 years. It is especially valuable as the area's commercial real estate market slows from federal spending cutbacks, he said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Andrew Hay)

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Comments (3)
jane33w wrote:
FBI Building is “a dump”? Honey, PG County is a dump, and not just because the buildings are run-down.

Jan 08, 2013 1:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
victor672 wrote:
A building from the 1970′s is “a dump”? How about the much older Capitol, the White House, or the Supreme Court building? Are they likewise dumps? Stop wasting taxpayers’ money.

Jan 08, 2013 2:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
americanguy wrote:
The US government (and States) has tens of thousands of newer 100+ million dollar empty buildings scattered across the country, including military bases. Just pick one, and put FBI headquarters there. No wait, that wouldn’t put money in some crook’s pocket so they can kick back money to government officials.
Never mind.

Jan 12, 2013 10:17am EST  --  Report as abuse
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