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Lawmakers target empty Agriculture building for development

Mar. 22, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
The Agriculture Department's Cotton Annex building is seen in Washington, D.C.
The Agriculture Department's Cotton Annex building is seen in Washington, D.C. (Gannett Government Media Co.)

Lawmakers on the House public buildings subcommittee left Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet in a musty Agriculture Department building that has sat vacant since 2007.

Their point: to pressure the General Services Administration to more quickly dispose of excess federal properties including prominent buildings in prime Washington locations.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said it is unacceptable that GSA has empty buildings in lucrative areas of Washington.

"Its location makes the Cotton Annex particularly attractive to developers," Norton said.

GSA will develop a plan within six months to develop the 90,000-square-foot building located near the Energy Department headquarters in southwest Washington, said Bob Peck, GSA's Public Buildings Service commissioner.

Lawmakers place the value of the building at $150 million.

Peck said GSA will look at renovating the building for use as federal office space or will partner with a private company to redevelop the property for commercial use.

Norton said GSA should also look into partnering up with private companies to share the initial expense involved in finishing the consolidation of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in southeast Washington.

Congress has drastically cut funding for the project in the last two years causing the department to delay the project's completion by five years, until 2022. President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget request also dramatically cuts planned spending.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., continued to push GSA to relocate the Federal Trade Commission from its current Washington headquarters to Constitution Center in southwest Washington.

Mica wants to turn the current FTC building over to the National Gallery of Art, which would pay for the extensive renovations he said the historic building needs. The move could save more than $400 million in reduced lease costs and avoided renovation bills, Mica said.

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