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Mayor Gray Wants FBI HQ to Move to Poplar Point

by Prince Of Petworth March 6, 2013 at 11:00 am 16 Comments

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From the Mayor’s office:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor L. Hoskins, through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), officially submitted one site in the District of Columbia for the General Services Administration (GSA) to evaluate in its consideration of a new location for a consolidated Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters. The site is Poplar Point, located at Anacostia’s border at the nexus of Interstates 295 and 695, in walking distance to public transportation, and convenient to bikers traversing area bike paths.

“In Poplar Point, the District of Columbia offers a prime real-estate location that presents the GSA with an opportunity to recommit to the District – our nation’s capital,” said Mayor Gray. “Here, the federal government has the opportunity build a new facility tailored to the needs of the FBI on an accessible parcel with ample space to meet the federal agency’s square footage, parking, security and sustainability requirements.”

Poplar Point is one of the last great urban waterfront redevelopment opportunities on the East Coast and the only viable District site to meet the new FBI headquarters facility requirements. Bounded by South Capitol Street, I-295 and the 11th Street Bridge, the site is largely unused but contains some National Park Service and U.S. Park Police facilities. Yet, the 110-acre site is a signature District parcel that boasts attractive views, outstanding transportation infrastructure, and a host of nearby urban amenities with its location just minutes from downtown. Additionally, 70 acres at Poplar Point are reserved by the federal government to be maintained as parkland, leaving a total of 40 acres to construct a new FBI headquarters and a private, mixed-use waterfront development.

Continues after the jump

Locating a FBI headquarters in Anacostia would work toward fulfilling a larger District vision to invest in parts of the city east of the Anacostia River. Near the Poplar Point site, a series of public and private investments are currently at work enhancing the area’s economic and cultural opportunities. Major real-estate-development projects include the redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths East and West Campuses; the rebuilding of the Barry Farm public housing site to create a new mixed-income neighborhood; the reconstruction of the 11th Street Bridge with enhanced transit options; and a soon-to-be reconstructed and reconfigured South Capitol Street Bridge.

“Should the FBI vacate the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the federal government presents the District with a once-in-a-generation chance to redevelop a site once home to a major federal government headquarters located in the heart of downtown D.C. and at the center of the roadway connecting the White House and the U.S. Capitol,” said Deputy Mayor Victor L. Hoskins. “As we work to sustain an East of the River renaissance, we ask the GSA to continue partnering with us by building a new FBI headquarters at our spacious and secure Poplar Point location. The District is committed to mixed-use development at the site and showcased in our response an interest in the FBI headquarters locating to a portion of Poplar Point, further allowing the federal government to be a catalyst to adjacent private development.”

In early January, GSA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain responses from parties interested in providing a new headquarters facility for the FBI. In this proposal, GSA cited its willingness to exchange the J. Edgar Hoover Building (JEH) as part of this potential transaction. A redeveloped JEH site on Pennsylvania Avenue NW will allow the District to continue to knit together the downtown core – yielding significant benefits such as the generation of millions annually in property taxes; the potential reintroduction of D Street NW to improve circulation and restore a portion of the L’Enfant-designed street grid; the opportunity to activate the surrounding sidewalk and streetscape through ground-floor restaurants or retail; and the possibility to bring an additional public-serving civic construction downtown.

About Poplar Point

Poplar Point is envisioned to be a home for a variety of different uses including residential, retail, office, entertainment, cultural, park and open spaces. Presently, the site’s location affords easy access to historic Anacostia, the Capitol Riverfront, the Navy Yard, The Yards, the Marine Barracks and the Barracks Row district. This will collectively provide dozens of restaurants, convenience retail, a full-service grocery, a nursery, entertainment and other retail all within one mile of Poplar Point.

Options to reach the location abound, with easy access to Interstates 295, 395 and 695; Metro access via the Anacostia Metro Station, located under 3/4 of a mile away; four new Capital Bikeshare locations at the Congress Heights Metro, Good Hope Road and Minnesota Avenue SE, Alabama Avenue and Malcolm X Avenue SE and W Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE; and 20 miles of adjacent riverfront trails for cycling and running – with bicycle and pedestrian facilities that include bike lanes, shared lane marking, bike parking, and Priority Corridors for pedestrians.

In 2006, Congress enacted legislation (Public Law 109-396) directing the United States to transfer Poplar Point to the District. That transfer has not yet occurred. The District proposes that the footprint needed for the new FBI headquarters facility at Poplar Point would be leased to GSA until such time that ownership could revert fully to GSA.

For more details on Poplar Point, please see the correlating DMPED website project page.

  • John K.

    I’m more interested in how they’re ever going to demolish the current building. My bet is it takes longer to do that than to build the new one.

  • saf

    This is SUCH a bad idea. Please, don’t put this ridiculous fortress on this land. There are many better uses that would allow public access.

    • That Man A

      I concur

      this will be a huge change from the origional plans for anacostia
      i wonder how it will efrect the neighborhood

      prior to this news it was headed for another overhaul like that of h st or c heights

      • Nicoli

        From what I keep reading, this is more of a token effort to keep it in DC and that Gray isn’t seriously pushing for it.


        Keeping my fingers crossed that it ends up in VA or MD. My best guess is in NOVA at Springfield.

        • Nicoli

          More from the city paper article: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2013/03/05/gray-administration-pitches-poplar-point-as-new-fbi-location/

          “The proposal includes just 10 acres for the FBI headquarters, far under the 55-acre cap imposed by GSA. Though the proposal claims the FBI could occupy its desired 2.1 million square feet if the buildings rose to 11 stories, it’d be a tight squeeze—perhaps another indication that the city isn’t going all out to keep the FBI in town.”

          So they are proposing 10 acres though the FBI likely wants closer to 55. This just doesn’t seem like a serous offer. Thank god.

          • But why wouldn’t they make a serious bid to keep the FBI here? The ancillary tax effects from commuters are enormous. Plus, if the FBI leaves, then employees will be drawn to live outside the District.

            I don’t understand why Grey wouldn’t make a good faith effort to keep them here. Seems like a no-brainer :-/

          • KenyonDweller

            I’m with Zero_Sum. I hate the downtown FBI building and will be glad to see it go. But, having federal agencies in the city is the backbone of the economy. It seems really shortsighted not to make a serious effort to keep them here.

          • sbc

            @ zero sum (couldn’t reply directly):

            There actually aren’t big tax effects from commuters–DC doesn’t have a commuter tax, and relatively few FBI employees both live in the District and would move if the FBI did.

            Also, the FBI doesn’t pay property taxes, whereas a private development at Poplar Point would…even if the District gives some sort of tax abatement to developers, it would still work out better over time.

            Finally, some FBI employees leave the office and buy lunch or other stuff downtown (thus giving DC sales tax), but none of the proposed locations, in DC or otherwise, will have that–the FBI insists on having a very large security barrier so few people will leave during the day–they’ll probably have an on-site cafeteria, credit union, gym, child care center, etc.

          • I understand some of those issues, but I still think it’s a bit shortsighted. We don’t have a commuter tax now, but we very well could one day if the region’s traffic continues to get worse. Same goes for congestion charging.

            Considering that we’ll get the taxes from the prime property on Pennsylvania Ave, I think its silly that DC gives away tens of thousands of middle and upper-middle class jobs to VA or MD. Perhaps FBI employees predominantly live outside DC, but they certainly will have no incentive to live here once the headquarters leaves the District.

          • The only way a commuter tax would ever happen is if DC somehow finally, miraculously gets statehood. Otherwise, it’s simply a non-starter that is NEVER going to happen. The same goes for a congestion charge. It is far more short-sighted to lose 20 years of solid tax base for commercial development to instead have another militarized fortress sitting along the east bank of the Anacostia and Potomac.

            Furthermore, it is more important DC develop non-government dependent streams of industry–and residents who support those businesses–than it is to keep a single branch of government within the borders. Along with the tech incubator moving into nearby St. Elizabeth’s, Poplar Point has the potential to help reshape the entire Anacostia area into a prosperous neighborhood the helps the city cope financially through administration change and the like.

  • Hmm what about where Walter Reed was? That’s a pretty huge chunk of land. It’s supposedly not being used, why not?

  • I hope they leave some of the forest and wetland intact with this idea. It’d be a shame to have significant canopy loss in that area, especially so close to the waterfront.

  • way cool bro

    Let the FBI leave…the property tax we’ll get from letting private developers utilize the current FBI site and all available land on Poplar Point way outweighs any financial benefit of having the FBI stay in town.


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