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GSA’s sweeping D.C. renovation plan would affect 14,000 employees

Dec. 9, 2012 - 02:16PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
More than 14,600 federal employees will be moved out of their offices and into efficient, environmentally friendly buildings as part of a General Services Administration plan to transform a large swath of southwest Washington.
More than 14,600 federal employees will be moved out of their offices and into efficient, environmentally friendly buildings as part of a General Services Administration plan to transform a large swath of southwest Washington. (Army Times Publishing Co.)

More than 14,600 federal employees will be moved out of their offices and into efficient, environmentally friendly buildings as part of a General Services Administration plan to transform a large swath of southwest Washington.

GSA issued a request for information Dec. 3 for ideas on how to redevelop more than 3 million square feet of office space in Washington’s Federal Triangle area and allow for more retail and dining options — all without paying large upfront costs.

The agency hopes to fund the project by entering into special financing arrangements that would allow private developers to own the buildings and receive rent or other payments in exchange for the redevelopment work.

The affected area includes the Energy Department headquarters and its annex, the Federal Aviation Administration buildings and GSA’s regional office building.

The project will relocate thousands of employees, including:

• 2,466 Department of Homeland Security employees from leased locations in Virginia who would move into roughly 500,000 square feet of new space in Federal Triangle.

• 1,629 Federal Aviation Administration employees from eight offices throughout Washington who will join 3,799 FAA employees already at Federal Triangle in one renovated or new location.

• 590 Energy Department employees from leased space in L’Enfant Plaza and 4,713 employees at Energy Department headquarters who would move into new space.

• 1,500 employees at the GSA regional office building who will move to GSA headquarters at 1800 F St. NW. GSA is incorporating unfinished renovations at its own headquarters in the city’s northwest quadrant as part of the project. Last year, GSA was forced to cut short the renovations at its headquarters building because of budget cuts. A 2005 law authorizes GSA to enter into special financing deals to exchange, trade, lease or otherwise negotiate for new construction or renovation projects.

Until now, GSA had made little use of that authority.

“GSA is interested in leveraging the value of its real property assets to provide more efficient facilities for federal customers and potentially create the catalyst for a revitalization of this area of Southwest Washington,” according to GSA’s request for information.

Other building projects on which GSA intends to use alternative financing include:

• A new FBI headquarters. GSA issued a request for information Dec. 3 to exchange the 2.4 million-square-foot J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in downtown Washington for a new headquarters nearby.

“An exchange of the FBI headquarters not only saves money, but it also promotes efficiency by consolidating staff into a single state-of-the-art facility, shrinking the federal real estate footprint and eliminating multiple leases,” said acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini in a news release.

• A new federal office building in Los Angeles. The agency hopes to trade a 72-year-old, 783,000-square-foot courthouse still in use for a new 175,000-square-foot, energy-efficient federal office building downtown.

For the proposed Federal Triangle project, all of the affected buildings require major modernization, and “budget constraints have created a backlog of needed repairs,” according to the agency.

GSA has struggled with congressional budget cuts in recent years, with funding for construction projects plummeting from $894 million in 2010 to $82 million in 2011 and $50 million in 2012.

But GSA is hoping to renovate or build highly efficient facilities that will use 50 percent less energy and incorporate sustainable features, such as green roofs.

GSA will use industry feedback to its RFI to craft a development plan in spring and then issue a formal request for proposals in July, according to the agency. It plans to award a contract by summer 2014.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees GSA, said the agency is finally realizing that its underused buildings have significant value.

“We can get out of a huge amount of leased space and put people back into a smaller footprint than what we have today,” Denham said.

If GSA is successful with this project, it could lead to more, he said.

“We have to use alternative financing because we are not going to keep pulling more money out of the Treasury,” Denham said.

Tangherlini said in a news release that the project will allow the agency to meet its priorities even during a funding shortfall.

“With Federal Triangle South, we will contribute to a more sustainable neighborhood by creating opportunities for development, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars by redeveloping outdated and underutilized properties,” he said.

GSA spokeswoman Jackeline Stewart-Johnson said the agency is asking for ideas that address the planning goals of the National Capital Planning Commission — which this year released its own vision for what the area should look like.

The NCPC plan includes an expanded Virginia Railway Express station for suburban commuters, redeveloped tree-lined streets with expanded, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and bike lanes, a new park with a fountain, and more shops and restaurants. The plan, developed in coordination with federal agencies, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent and potable water consumption by 70 percent and to divert 80 percent of waste away from landfills.

Those goals would be accomplished by renovating existing buildings, improving stormwater management and collecting rain for irrigation, and recycling construction materials.

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