Greater Greater Washington

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FBI headquarters could stay downtown, but at a cost

As the FBI searches for a new headquarters location, most of the options have focused on the suburbs or Poplar Point, but Washingtonian reports on another proposal: Keep it downtown, at H Street and North Capitol Street, NW. But that location has serious downsides.


Rendering of potential H Street FBI. Image from Arthur Cotton Moore via Washingtonian.

The proposal would repurpose the existing Government Printing Office buildings on North Capitol Street and add a new extension to the west. The new building would be over 2 million square feet, and would cover multiple blocks from New Jersey Avenue to North Capitol.

Ideally an employer as large as the FBI should have its offices downtown, but the FBI isn't just any employer. Its building is likely to be a security fortress, which means it won't be very good for pedestrians, or have ground floor retail. H Street is an important pedestrian and retail spine. Giving up a long stretch of it to the FBI would be just as bad there as it is on E Street, where the FBI is a sidewalk dead zone.

Actually, a dead zone on H Street might be even worse. Walmart is building an urban format store directly across the street from this site. And love Walmart or hate it, it's going to be one of downtown's biggest retail draws. That means this exact block of H Street is about to become one of the busiest retail main streets in the city. It should have retail on both sides.

One advantage of this FBI proposal is that the federal government already owns the land. That does mean it's already less likely to get retail on it, but putting the FBI building on it would cement that, literally.

There are other questions. DDOT's proposed crosstown streetcar would run along H Street. The FBI has never weighed in on streetcars, but would they throw up security-related roadblocks? It's unknown.

According to Washingtonian, the FBI would close G Street entirely to traffic, as well as obliterating a block of 1st Street. That further cripples the L'Enfant grid at a time when other projects are trying to restore the grid nearby. And would the FBI forbid pedestrians and cyclists on G Street as well as motor vehicles?

Finally, the existing GPO buildings are among Washington's most prominent historic red brick buildings, and were designed by a prominent architect at the time. The FBI concept renderings show a courtyard in the middle of the GPO building, but aerials show no such courtyard currently exists. That suggests the buildings will have to be completely gutted to fit the FBI. Is that a worthy tradeoff?

Any proposal that keeps the FBI downtown merits serious consideration, but given the FBI's security requirements, and given the potential for this location to be redeveloped with something even better, it may be preferable to let the FBI go. Putting the FBI on this block might be better than having it remain a parking lot, but almost any other building would be more ideal.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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If (big "ifs") they can include retail along - at minimum - H Street, and keep G open to bikes and pedestrians (like DOT HQ on M SE), then this could be a good proposal.

Big "ifs" to be sure, but I think there is some potential for a good project. For one thing, GSA has been much more accepting of ground floor retail recently.

by Tony Goodman on Apr 4, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

Can you imagine what a fortress facade this building would have? Bad for city life and a great opportunity to start up a PG metro stop.

by Thayer-D on Apr 4, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

I'm not really a fan of this option, but I admit that it is for the fairly NIMBYISH reasons that it would make my commute awful. H St and North Capitol NW is already crowded. Add in even a few more cars for the new Walmart and the FBI and it will be mess. Many of the buses that run by there are also packed. I can't imagine adding more people.

by Kate W. on Apr 4, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

We're asking the wrong questions. Why does the FBI actually need a fortress-like structure?

Are they expecting a siege?

(Also, the loss of the GPO office space would have far-reaching effects, as the GPO would need a new home in addition to the many agencies that also lease space in that building.)

by andrew on Apr 4, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

An organization such as the FBI does not belong in downtown DC. They should move into the Pentagon and expand it upward if they need more space.

by Ron on Apr 4, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

How precisely does DOD and FBI go together?

by Kevin on Apr 4, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

It looks like whoever laid out those renderings has no sense of scale. The courtyards would have absolutely no human scale to them, and could fit entire office buildings. What a waste.

by recyclist on Apr 4, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

So lets see, its not the acreage the FBI wants, and its not near the beltway like they want, but maybe the power of the DC congressional delegation could overcome those stated preferences.

Not. 70% it goes to Greenbelt, 30% it goes to Springfield.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 4, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with letting the FBI go. The government definitely kept downtown DC going in the past, but it doesn't seem like it's best for FBI or DC in this case.

by Alan B. on Apr 4, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

As for the creation of a courtyard, that will be a problem for the reuse of the GPO Building no matter who moves into it. There has been sporadic talk of moving the GPO to a new location and new facility for a long time; when /if this comes to pass, the converison of the existing space will have to resolve a lot of issues, the historic fabric included (as well as environmental, after decades of industrial use) in order to make the building suitable for anything like office, residential, retail, or hotel uses.

by DC20009 on Apr 4, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

Kev: They are both defense and security-related government agencies. Just because they aren't very good at working with each other doesn't mean they couldn't share a facility. They both have similar security requirements.

by Ron on Apr 4, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

This is a "make it work" proposal if there was some requirement for the FBI to remain in downtown DC. Luckily there is no such requirement. Put them in Greenbelt.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

The GPO has been looking to move for a while now. Much of their space is no longer used as it is now. Those buildings are filled with outdated equipment and are relics from the pre-internet era.

One hang-up has been over whether GPO can use any of the revenue it would get from selling its buildings and land or if it would all go to the Treasury. This gets somewhat complicated because the GPO is actually part of the Legislative branch.

The other hang-up is where GPO would relocate to. The reality is that GPO doesn't need to be in or even near DC anymore. Even the old standby, the daily distribution of the Congressional Record, is now extremely limited and many Congressional offices opt out. Much of the other printing work is already sent out to contractors all over the country as it. But DC doesn't want to lose a few thousand government jobs (many which are held by city residents and minorities, which does matter politically) so you can bet Eleanor Holmes Norton will use whatever power she has to keep the GPO in DC.

by dcdriver on Apr 4, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

I agree that downtown might not be the best location for the new FBI headquarters (I think Walter Reed would be a fine location). For all those who are so eager to see the FBI headquarters go, however, this will be a significant loss of tax revenue to the District. How many of the FBI's thousands of employees who make $120,000 - $150,000 per year and the contractors who make that much live in the District? If the FBI headquarters relocates to VA or MD, it seems likely at least some of these employees whose income taxes help fund important District services and transportation investments, will also move as well.

There has been almost no discussion of this financial impact on the District.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

@Ben

The vast majority of the federal workforce lives in Maryland or Virginia. There would likely be very minimal change in that regards. The District would, however, potentially get a millions of square feet of new, taxable land in one of the most desirable and completely built-out areas of the city.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@Adam:

That is why I said that the FBI headquarters should be relocated from downtown.

"I agree that downtown might not be the best location for the new FBI headquarters (I think Walter Reed would be a fine location)."

There are other locations in the District (Poplar Point, Walter Reed, Intelsat campus?, etc...) that would be suitable for for this. We are going to lose a lot of good paying jobs and the tax revenue that goes with it if if the FBI headquarters moves to VA or MD. Even if only 20% of the FBI headquarters workforce and the associated contractors live in the District, these are still very good paying jobs. It is unfortunate to see absolutely zero discussion of this.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

I think keeping 11,000 jobs downtown is good for the city, all things considered.

I don't like 1,300 parking spaces getting squeezed in next to Union Station, but they're underground. I don't like losing a block of First Street NW, but if you have to lose a block, that one isn't too terrible considering New Jersey Av is right there. At it's widest, the block between First, NJ, and H is only 200 feet.

I don't like this if it poses a bulwark to the streetcar. I don't think it will, though.

Most importantly, the issue of the 50' setbacks... a few blocks away at New York and Florida, sits the hideously fortress-like ATF building. But on 2nd St NE, that setback is filled with one-story retail (Five Guys, A Deli, etc). I wonder if they would be able to similarly purpose H Street?

So are there drawbacks? Yes. But moving 11,000 jobs CLOSER to the largest regional transit center instead of out to the suburbs is good policy. It's good for the FBI, and I think it is in keeping with the goal of making Washington a more vibrant city.

by Dave Murphy on Apr 4, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

@Dave Murphy:

I am glad someone else thinks keeping these jobs in DC is important. As I said, if 20% of the 11,000 headquarters employees live in the District, this is 2,200 employees who probably make a median salary of $100,000. 11,000 well-paid headquarters employees also supports a lot of other jobs around Penn Quarter and Gallery Place.

I posted this before but why isn't Walter Reed being considered as a possible site? The land is owned by the federal government, from what I've heard, there is sufficent land for the headquarters, it presumably meets the security requirements, and it is well served by bus (and eventually streetcar).

Another site might be the Intelsat campus. That looks like it has a sufficiently large footprint and 11,000 employees in Van Ness during the day will go a long way to adding vibrancy to that neighborhood.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Ben

Any of the areas you mentioned would be taking land currently owned by the District and turning it back over to the Feds, thereby forgoing other possible taxable uses.

Proximity to work is only one reason that people live where they do. (If it was the primary consideration, we'd have many more people living in the District and near-in suburbs).

If the FBI HQ moves to Maryland or Virginia, especially if close to Metro, I think that D.C. residents would be the least affected by the move. If I commute from Virginia to downtown DC and suddenly had to make my way all the way to Greenbelt, that may actually make me move. But DC residents? For most DC residents, getting to Greenbelt or Franconia-Springfield could be just be a slightly longer Metro ride.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

@Adam L:

Are you sure? I think Walter Reed is still owned by the federal government.

If the FBI headquarters moved to Springfield, sure, some DC residents might stay in the District but some, espeically if they don't have children, would certainly prefer the convenience of Alexandria or Arlington to commute from.

Between the rabid opposition to university expansions by many neighborhoods in DC and indifference to keeping 11,000 jobs in DC, it is disheartening to see that jobs and economic stablity aren't a greater priority. I forgot, however, le'ts give a $30M subsidy to Living Social instead.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

@Dave and Ben

This discussion of 20% of 11,000 jobs that pay in low six figures is fantasy. 11,000 people do not currently work at the downtown HQ. 11,000 is the estimate if the other FBI locations were consolidated into one building.

That said, who is to say that any other uses of the land will not have a similar number of good-paying jobs? In all likelihood, they will. Those uses will also be able to interact with the street and not turn what is one of the most promising areas of the city into yet another fortress. Let's not repeat our same mistakes.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

@Ben

The transfer at Walter Reed is all set. The District has already solicited the RFPs for the 75% of the site that is going to the city, while the other 25% is being used by the State Department. That's 113 acres of taxable, mixed-use land; a far better purpose then another federal fortress.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

I am glad someone else thinks keeping these jobs in DC is important. As I said, if 20% of the 11,000 headquarters employees live in the District, this is 2,200 employees who probably make a median salary of $100,000. 11,000 well-paid headquarters employees also supports a lot of other jobs around Penn Quarter and Gallery Place.

Yes, but you have to balance that against the fact that the space occupied by FBI won't just disappear, it will be replaced by another (likely private company) use that will pay taxes on the land it occupies, and will also employ people, a portion of whom will live in the District.

So will the income tax revenue from the people who decide to follow the FBI out of the District be bigger than the revenue gain from having new buildings on the tax rolls? I don't think so.

by MLD on Apr 4, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

@Adam:

Again, I am not saying keep the FBI headquarters right downtown on PA Avenue but a greater effort should be made to keep this source of good-paying jobs in DC. I just provided three sites outside of the central business district that could be viable locations.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

@Ben

The three sites you mentioned are already slated for other purposes that will bring a similar number, if not more, good-paying jobs AND property tax revenue. I'd take that over the FBI any day of the week.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

@Adam:

Please explain what is going to be developed at either Poplar Point or what new business is leasing the Intelsat building?

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Ben

Intelsat hasn't even left yet. But I can guarantee that there will be someone to pick up that prime office space. Or, even better, perhaps the entire thing will be torn down and replaced with street-facing mixed-use development. I'm not going to forgo that possibility by moving a Federal Fortress onto that prime land.

As for Poplar Point, let's be serious: the FBI's not going there.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

@Adam

Intelsat S.A. to leave D.C. for Tysons Corner
http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2012/11/21/intelsat-weighing-relocation-to-tysons.html?page=all

Why isn't Poplar Point a serious site? Lack of mayoral and DC Council leadership and effort on this?

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

This would pretty much put an end to development in NoMA, create a massive security cordon around Union Station and North Capitol, probably get rid of the Walmart/condominium being built on the north side of H St. I'd wager that every bus route that goes by there now - Circulator, 80, X2, the 90s - would be rerouted, and the streetcar would never come.

In short, it would leave a non-development zone for blocks around. All in all, it sounds like a terrible idea.

by Craig on Apr 4, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

@Ben

I know Intelsat is leaving, but not for a while. Besides, the building is already under contract to be sold. It will be re-purposed, and not for the FBI. If moving to the GPO property is a selling point because it's already federally owned land, then I can see even less incentive for the feds to shell out the additional $120,000,000+ for the Intelsat building just to tear it down.

As for Poplar Point, they won't go there for every other reason that other developments haven't gone in there: nobody wants to be located there... yet. I'd give it a few years for the area to take off, probably after the SW/near-SE areas are revitalized with new developments.

by Adam L on Apr 4, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

Funny how all the local jurisdictions go from wanting the HQ to not wanting it to wanting it again. Shows what a mixed bag this kind of employer and its presence would be.

by Mike O on Apr 4, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

Most FBI employees (almost all now former employees) I know already live in the suburbs. Mass exodus from DC to the suburbs is fantasy. There aren't that many that live in DC. In fact, I know 2 who do, and both work in an office in NoVa--and not on transit. I can't seem them decamping for VA or Greenbelt if the FBI consolidated offices. They live in DC because they want to be in DC. Both would have (marginally) easier commutes by moving across the river, and both refuse to do so.

Furthermore, there are not 11,000 $100,000+ jobs associated with the FBI. Not anywhere close.

If the FBI wants to build a fortress, they're welcome to do so. But I personally don't want to see it in DC.

by Birdie on Apr 4, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

@Birdie:

The FBI's website said the Hoover building can accommodate 7,100 people. Sure, there are not 11,000 $100,000 jobs but there are jobs there that pay $130,000 - $150,000 and there are jobs that pay $40,000. Given that many of the FBI headquarters jobs are attorneys, forensic analysts, computer engineers, and other highly-skilled jobs, I thought a median salary of $100,000 is a reasonable estimate.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

one of the things I've talked with Anwar Saleem of H St. Main Street about, in the context of the future of Union Station and the Walmart at 1st and New Jersey is a long term redefinition of the length of the "H Street commercial district" to the Walmart.

by Richard Layman on Apr 4, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

Depending on what happens with a new DC United stadium, there is also plenty of vacant land surrounding RFK stadium to relocate the FBI headquarters.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

The RFK site, of course, is metro-accessible as well.

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

Poplar POint has serious remediation issues. Part of it had been a nursery in DDT years, the other part was a naval base during WWII. Plus it is subject to flooding.

2. I suggested Barry Farms as an alternative.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/02/barry-farms-as-potential-dc-location.html

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/02/more-on-barry-farm-vs-poplar-point-as.html

3. For agglomeration benefits, there are reasons to keep the FBI in DC.

by Richard Layman on Apr 4, 2013 6:03 pm • linkreport

Although some of these have various issues, here is a list of potential sites in DC but outside of the central business district (admittedly, with varying degrees of ease of development)

1) Poplar Point
2) Walter Reed
3) Barry Farm
4) RFK

by Ben on Apr 4, 2013 6:06 pm • linkreport

I would rather see critical enforcement facilities like this outside of the confines and fragility of our nation’s capital. A similar HQ elected to “stay in the city” over 10 years ago and created a layered land locked fortress that is both frightening and offensive in appearance. There is no need for such ugly gestures today with so many viable sites and robust developers offering so much in southern Fairfax County and elsewhere. In the event bad people act out against hardened target in congested cities that real losers are the soft collateral sites like schools, homes, churches, and businesses nestled up to it. This is the very same humane reason many facilities worldwide have moved and are moving out of precious city centers. Let’s show more maturity and humanity on this topic.

by AndrewJ on Apr 5, 2013 6:47 am • linkreport

Not to be rude, but who needs the FBI in downtown DC? You'd just be putting into prime real estate several thousand conservative gumshoes who just want to drive in from the far 'burbs and are too cheap to do anything more than brown-bag their lunches. The rest are just clerical workers. They are not going to frequent hip new restaurants for lunch or wine and jazz bars after the office. The FBI is not the creative, upscale urbanist class that DC wants to attract and retain if we are to grow into a denser, more vibrant city.

by NewUrbanist on Apr 5, 2013 9:03 am • linkreport

@Andrew asks the right question: Why do they need a fortress again?

Whether in my home neighborhood (Greenbelt) or near my work location (Penn Qtr) I see the FBI and its fortress mentality as symbolic of a drive-in, stay-in, drive-out workforce with few local benefits and lots of disruption. Maybe I'm wrong, but the fortress requirement definitely leaves that impression.

by Greenbelt on Apr 5, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

@NewUrbanist
"Not to be rude, but who needs the FBI in downtown DC? You'd just be putting into prime real estate several thousand conservative gumshoes who just want to drive in from the far 'burbs and are too cheap to do anything more than brown-bag their lunches. The rest are just clerical workers. They are not going to frequent hip new restaurants for lunch or wine and jazz bars after the office. The FBI is not the creative, upscale urbanist class that DC wants to attract and retain if we are to grow into a denser, more vibrant city."

Not to be rude? I can't see any other way to describe it. Maybe I would add "bizarre." Unless it's satire?

by Chris S. on Apr 5, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

New Urbanist:
"Not to be rude, but who needs the FBI in downtown DC? You'd just be putting into prime real estate several thousand conservative gumshoes who just want to drive in from the far 'burbs and are too cheap to do anything more than brown-bag their lunches. The rest are just clerical workers. They are not going to frequent hip new restaurants for lunch or wine and jazz bars after the office. The FBI is not the creative, upscale urbanist class that DC wants to attract and retain if we are to grow into a denser, more vibrant city."

It is the GS-13 employees making $100,000 per year who are exactly the type of people with sufficient disposable income to go to hip new restaurants and jazz bars.

I am not saying downtown is the best place for the FBI headquarters but these are the type of upper-middle class jobs the District should be working to retain if we want to finance good public services and have the income base to support restaurants and retail.

by Ben on Apr 5, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

As Craig has already stated cant wait for the new traffic plan that reroutes all buses like was done at around the Capitol for about a year after 9/11 with the added travel times to residents who use those bus routes.

Why not pick the most isolated spot in DC that is near metrorail and dump all Federal Government buildings there. Is there any room in SW near the Bureau of Engraving or near the mall.

I know these three are park land but one could wish dump the FBI, ATF, FDA, FTC, DoJ, DoT etc.

Kingman Island build a ramp from East Capitol/Benning Road for Kingman Island done

East Potomac Park just get rid of the golf course and replace as a Federal Complex.

Arboretum some will complain but DC has enough park land for its size and developing a little will not harm the city or the environment for the people. But place a building that may cause traffic to be stopped, rerouted, buses rerouted or streets closed for security purposes does cause harm to people in some way or form.

by kk on Apr 5, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Many of the same people here on GGW who are so supportive of sending the FBI headquarters packing to FFX or Prince George's County also seemed to support the relocation of the DHS headquarters east of the river for the economic activity that it will generate. Indeed, the Anacostia streetcar line was sold to DC residents as being necessary to help meet this growth and any talk of Anacostia redevelopment is dependent on this. If anything, the DHS headquarters (13,000 employees) is bigger than the FBI headquarters.

by Ben on Apr 5, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

Additionally, couldn't the exact same argument be made about our universities in DC? Many of these campuses are separated from the surrounding community with limited mixed-uses and do not pay property taxes. We could put that land to a higher and better use. I am sure you could develop a lot of condos on the land taken up by the universities and collect significant property taxes but this would would be at the cost of losing 16,000+ jobs.

by Ben on Apr 5, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

Universities don't require campuses that are closed off to the public, or 50-foot setbacks that are terrible for urban environments, or blank facades with no retail or activated uses.

by MLD on Apr 5, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

Plus GWU which is the most downtown campus of all doesn't really have a campus but is just part of the streetscape.

I think if DC is worried about losing the median salaries of the FBI than they should say bye to them and make sure that the commercial space that is built to replace the Hoover building is high quality and attractive to the businesses (and salaries) that would move in.

by drumz on Apr 5, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

Plus pretty much all of the DC campuses are trying to do things that integrate themselves more fully with the surrounding neighborhoods (via adding more residences and such).

by drumz on Apr 5, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

So it looks like this is news to GPO and they have not plans to leave.

http://dcist.com/2013/04/the_fbi_near_union_station_probably.php

by Kate W. on Apr 5, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

Universities add to social capital and can foster local economic development in ways I don't see the FBI doing. And in terms of housing density, I'm sure university dorms are up there.

by Alan B. on Apr 5, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

I suspect if its were certain DHS were not moving to St E's then DC might well put St E's on the table for the FBI (does it have the acreage?) But thats far different from a site as central as the GPO on North Capital - with all due respect to Congress Heights and its rise.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 5, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

What are the businesses employing 4000-7000 people clamoring to replace the FBI folks at the current location. Same question for Intelsat. I see a bright future for DC and imagine one day all sorts of companies and businesses will fill DC. But in the near future, we need people with significant income who use the restaurants and other shops in DC. If one pays attention to these things very few large employers are moving into DC, most go to Virginia. There is plenty of space for " the creative, upscale urbanist" folks and people who live in VA,MD and commute to DC. You don't grow the city by gleefully giving the boot to large numbers of jobs.

I live in Brightwood and actually believed the hype that Muriel Bowser and many others spread that Walter Reed workers just drove in stayed on campus and drove out. Now we find out that the small businesses nearby are struggling without Walter Reed. Hopefully this gets better one day but it may be 20 years before 3500 people traverse the gates of Walter Reed daily.

by LeeinDC on Apr 5, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

I would think it's a point of pride for residents to have the FBI in DC. Especially having already lost the Department of War/Defense and the CIA to Virginia.

by Chris S. on Apr 5, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Do any of those who are so eager to see 7,000 good-paying jobs leave the District for Fairfax not think that the relocation of several thousand US Department of Transportation employees to the Southeast Waterfront didn't have a very significant impact on redeveloping that area-- perhaps even more significant than the Nationals stadium?

by Ben on Apr 6, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

US DOT is not a secure fortress the way the FBI would be, and is a lot less acreage. There's a lot of wishful thinking here about relaxing what the FBI wants. Second guessing what your customer says they need is a not a great business plan.

by MStreetDenizen on Apr 6, 2013 6:52 pm • linkreport

How ironic the original posting was on the anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, considering what the FBI did to King. Spending anything to further expand the power of the FBI would be an enormous mistake, the architectural and land use implications are secondary at best.

Putting the FBI at a site known as RFK would be an insult to RFK's memory.

by mark on Apr 7, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

The FBI will want security that will make any location a dead zone. It would deaden any effort to make Walter Reed into a magnet for redeveloping upper Georgia Ave. RFK is the one Metro accessible site that's been mention in DC that makes any sense for their needs, without inhibiting neighborhood development.

by Rich on Apr 7, 2013 7:19 pm • linkreport

Consider the ATF building: it has very large setbacks for security reasons. The closest that the actual building gets to the street is along 2nd and N streets. Thanks to those setbacks, the building occupies a huge site but only contains about 422,000 square feet of space.

Considering that the FBI is looking for 2.1 million square feet, and taking the ATF setback distances as illustrative, it's hard to see how this GPO site would be plausible (even if all of the other issues could be resolved). The ATF building does have a lot of 'wasted' space within the minimum setback area, but not so much that you could easily find room for 5x the space...

by Alex B. on Apr 7, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

Once we get the FBI sorted out we should figure out how to get Dulles Airport moved back into DC.

by drumz on Apr 8, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

"Yale could use an international airport, Mr. Burns..."

Just as a fun point of comparison: IAD's grounds comprise 11,830 acres according to wiki. That translates into 18.5 square miles of area, equivalent to just over 30% of DC's land area.

by Alex B. on Apr 8, 2013 9:45 am • linkreport

You'd just be putting into prime real estate several thousand conservative gumshoes who just want to drive in from the far 'burbs and are too cheap to do anything more than brown-bag their lunches.

This grossly mischaracterizes the workers at FBI. They are middle-class people that blend in very well to DC ("blending" is a part of their training, of course), and are more hip than button-down politicians and lawyers. They are law-abiding and have families and are deeply concerned for education. In short, they are exactly the kind of people DC needs.

by goldfish on Apr 8, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

They may the type that DC needs but the requirements for the buildings they'll be working in are entirely out of whack for pretty much anywhere in the city. DC would be better off making sure that the city is a great place for other businesses that would attract the same kind of worker. Rather than expend all sorts of resources for a group who's HQ is already harmful to the city and their requirements for a new HQ would be worse.

by drumz on Apr 8, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

It seems in the past couple of years the only corporate headquarters the District has attracted is Living Social (and that is with $30M of tax credits) while several corporate headquarters and offices have moved to VA and Maryland. It is absolutely ridiculous and short-sighed that so many people hear are eager to shove 7,000 upper middle-class jobs to Fairfax County or Maryland.

Why wouldn't RFK be a suitable site if the DC United moved to the Buzzard's Point location? There is sufficient land, it is located next to the metro station, it would encourage development both there and perhaps east of the river.

by Ben on Apr 8, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@drumz, I agree that the security theater has probably gone too far. I walked into a neighborhood police station the other day, which was an inviting place. Nevertheless we must recognize that FBI headquarters is a target. Like the capitol, security must be balanced with the need for openness and access to law enforcement, as demanded by our society.

by goldfish on Apr 8, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

Why wouldn't RFK be a suitable site if the DC United moved to the Buzzard's Point location?

Because none of those plans are actually being considered by anyone at the moment?

Anyway. I don't know why the 7000 replacement workers have to all come from the same company.

I'm not eager to get rid of the FBI. I'd rather they stay. But the FBI seems intent on building a fortress. That seems incompatible with a lot of the city's goals. If the FBI isn't willing to compromise then I'm not sure why the city should capitulate.

by drumz on Apr 8, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@ Goldfish

Targets should not really be in public areas.

Take many of the presidential/royal palaces, parliament/congress buildings, special security buildings all over the world how many are really urban and not sat back from the rest of the surrounding area. Most are surrounding by gardens, garden then a fence or are just remote so that you can not just walk up to it and bomb the place.

If the White House was like most palaces the closest building to it would be by H Street, not the treasury or executive building or Suntrust or Bank of America

As the FBI is a target why keep it in the middle of the city so that when someone tries to bomb it you hurt innocent by standers that have nothing to do with the FBI but are in nearby buildings. Anything that is a target due to being government should be have hundreds of around it. It should be put somewhere that it can be monitored with easy and that can not be done on Pennsylvania Ave.

I say give the federal government a portion of land in DC and put everything there but have it heavily monitored

by kk on Apr 9, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

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