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Lawmakers seek quicker property disposal

Apr. 25, 2013 - 03:05PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
A vacant, GSA-owned warehouse in Washington hosted a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee field hearing on April 25.
A vacant, GSA-owned warehouse in Washington hosted a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee field hearing on April 25. (Thomas Brown / Federal Times)

Lawmakers pressed the General Services Administration Thursday to more quickly dispose of vacant buildings.

At a hearing Thursday, Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on government operations, complained that many unused federal facilities sit vacant for years before being sold or disposed of, and he pushed GSA to set clearer timetables for its property disposal projects.

“It’s just outrageous, and it does need to come to a halt,” he said.

The hearing was held at an abandoned federal warehouse in southeast Washington. The $19 million, 32,000-square-foot warehouse has been vacant since 2009, costing $70,000 annually to maintain.

GSA must first offer vacant properties to other agencies before making them available to homeless organizations and then state and local governments, according to the agency. Afterwards, GSA is allowed to sell the property to the private sector.

Michael Gelber, acting deputy commissioner at GSA’s Public Buildings Service, said the agency works as quickly as possible to dispose of unneeded federal properties.

GSA disposed of 114 excess properties in fiscal 2012 and more than 750 in the last five years, and continues to evaluate its portfolio for excess property, Gelber said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said GSA should do its best to dispose of the property in partnership with the District of Columbia to bring about the best use for the neighborhood.

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 upfront costs.

Also, in a Dec. 3 request for information, GSA is asking companies to come forward with ideas on how to exchange the 2.4 million-square-foot J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in downtown Washington for a new headquarters nearby.

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