GSA will put federal agencies near Metro stations
The General Services Administration, which handles the federal government's real estate, has signed an agreement that should lead to the placing of large federal offices near as many as four Metro rail stations that have not previously attracted much development.
The board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—better known as Metro—approved an agreement Dec. 15 that authorizes GSA to select sites at Metro stations for agencies that need at least 500,000 square feet of space, The Washington Post reported.
Said The Post:
Robert A. Peck, commissioner of Public Buildings Service at the GSA, called the agreement with Metro a “great step forward” because it will “bring mixed-use developments to underutilized Metro station areas.”
When asked how much development might result, and how soon, Peck told Better! Cities & Towns, "It's really impossible to predict; this will depend on future Federal agency requirements and very much on Federal funding."
The agreement was enthusiastically welcomed by officials of Prince George's County, Maryland, which contains two of the four stations being eyed as potential hubs for federal offices, possibly including the FBI. "The terms of the agreement with Metro would remove some of the hoops GSA officials must jump through as the agency searches for developers and land for the federal government," The Washington Examiner quoted Aubrey Thagard, an economic development specialist for Prince George's, as saying.
Prince George's, with a population of 863,000, is the nation's wealthiest county with an African-American majority. Though it has 15 Metro stations, it has never done as well as other parts of the region in attracting development to the areas around its stations. That may reflect class prejudice, and may also reflect a history of problems in its government. "The government of Prince George's is known for its notorious corruption," Wikipedia says, noting, "In 2011, former County Executive Jack B. Johnson was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking up to $1 million in bribes."
The GSA agreement focuses on the Branch Avenue and Naylor Road stations in Prince George's County, the Anacostia station in Washington, and the Huntington station in Fairfax County, Virginia. Prince George's is home to a quarter of the region's federal work force, but contains only about 4 percent of the region's federal office space," The Examiner recently noted.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth supported the agreement, saying in a Dec. 13 letter that the move "offers tremendous benefits," including "sparking additional mixed-use redevelopment and helping to expand Metro's share of transit trips." The Coalition said better use of the Metro system, besides being cost-effective for the transit system, "reduces traffic congestion and saves local and state governments road-related costs."
Steven Goldin, director of real estate for Metro, presented the idea to GSA about two years ago as a way of jump-starting development on long-vacant Metro land. The Coalition for Smarter Growth describes the result as "a streamlined site selection processs that ensures that more federal agencies are sited at Metro stations."
Last March, Metro's board selected a team led by Forest City Enterprises and Urban Atlantic to develop 39 acres of Metro- and state-owned land at the New Carrollton Metro station in Prince George's. New Carrollton, which has service from Amtrak and from Maryland's MARC commuter trains as well as Metro rail, is expected to become a major center of mixed-use development, including thousands of housing units.