DALLAS — The federal General Services Administration plans to swap FBI headquarters in Washington and other old office buildings on valuable land for modern, more efficient facilities through public-private partnerships, the agency’s administrator said Tuesday at a congressional hearing.
GSA’s Dan Tangherlini said taxpayers would benefit from the proposed exchange of the 40-year old J. Edgar Hoover Building for a new FBI headquarters and finding private partners to redevelop a complex of obsolete federal facilities south of the National Mall.
“We’ll leverage old buildings for new ones,” Tangherlini said at the hearing, which was held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s economic development, public buildings and emergency management subcommittee.
The GSA, last December, issued separate requests for information to developers interested in the FBI building swap and the proposed P3 redevelopment of the 35-acre Federal Triangle South office complex in southwest Washington near L’Enfant Plaza.
There were 38 responses to the FBI project. A proposal was issued Nov. 15 by GSA seeking developers to swap or sell land in the District or its suburbs in exchange for the right to raze the Hoover building and develop the site.
“GSA seeks to identify sites that would be acceptable to include in a future competitive procurement that will provide the best deal for taxpayers,” the request said.
The Hoover Building is crowded and outmoded, Tangherlini said. It is too small to accommodate the FBI’s 36,000 employees and is energy inefficient and costly to maintain, he said.
Subcommittee chairman Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa. told Tangherlini he is concerned that GSA will use the P3 swaps to build new facilities without going through the appropriations process or other congressional oversight.
The exchange authority came through legislation, Tangherlini said. It has been used dozens of times, he said, most recently last year when GSA swapped some land at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for the construction of a parking garage.
“We won’t do anything secretly or behind closed doors,” Tangherlini said. “We will do these through public requests for information and for proposals.”
Ten responses were received for the Federal Triangle South information request, Tangherlini said.
Requests for proposals from private partners for the Federal Triangle South redevelopment project will be issued by late January.
The Federal Triangle South project will transform a sterile, single-use enclave of office buildings with a mixed-use neighborhood of residences and retail that connects the National Mall with the new Southwest Waterfront development, Tangherlini said.
Federal budget constraints have hampered GSA in its effort to acquire modern facilities and maintain existing buildings, he said, and P3s are one solution.
GSA is also considering public-private partnerships to redevelop under-used federal buildings in Los Angeles and Miami, Tangherlini said.
The Federal Triangle South project is attractive to private investors, said David Winstead, a lawyer at Ballard Spahr LLP who was representing the Public Development and Infrastructure Council of the Urban Land Institute.
“There’s a lot of investor enthusiasm about Federal Triangle South,” he said. “This is a viable project. It is doable.”
The complex south of the National Mall includes offices of the Department of Energy, Federal Aviation Administration, and GSA. One building in the complex, the Cotton Annex, has been vacant for at least six years.
The Federal Triangle South project could be a template for federal P3 efforts across the country, Barletta said.
“If done correctly, redevelopment of this area, leveraging private investment, could benefit the federal taxpayer, the tenant agencies, as well as the local community,” he said.