WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation would move its headquarters from a storied, decades-old home in the nation’s capital to a new location in the suburbs under a federal government proposal released Tuesday.
The General Services Administration, which oversees federal office space, named two sites in suburban Maryland and one in northern Virginia as the three finalists for the new FBI headquarters.
The J. Edgar Hoover Building, a hulking Brutalist structure, began housing FBI workers in 1974 on prime Pennsylvania Avenue real estate between the Capitol and the White House. The building, which occupies a downtown city block across the street from the Justice Department, is known by many Americans for its appearances in news broadcasts and movies. Millions have visited for tours, which are now discontinued.
But the FBI has long complained that the building – named for the agency’s first and longest-serving director – is obsolete, inefficient and no longer meets the needs of an organization that has grown dramatically in the last 40 years. Those findings were confirmed by a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that agreed the building didn’t meet the agency’s long-term security needs. The FBI has been pushing to move thousands of employees spread among leased annexes in the region into a secure consolidated headquarters that would fit with an agency whose focus has evolved to intelligence and counterterrorism.
Word that the GSA was looking for a new location for the FBI set off intense jockeying from local and federal officials in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Though any move would likely be years away, the contenders clamored for the rights to a massive economic development project with the potential to bring thousands of jobs, expand the tax base and boost area retail and service industries.
The three sites on the shortlist are the Greenbelt Metro station in Maryland; on the site of a former mall in Landover, Maryland; or at a warehouse complex in Franconia, Virginia. The Maryland sites are both located in Prince George’s County, just outside of Washington. No site in the District of Columbia was a selected finalist.
“It will completely change the landscape here, especially in terms of economic development,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said in an interview.
Though the Hoover Building holds unquestionable sentimental value and is a recognizable site in Washington, the FBI would hardly be the first major federal agency with its headquarters outside the city. Both the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have headquarters in Virginia, for instance.
Virginia officials touted the GSA warehouse facility in Fairfax County as allowing for easy access to airports, Capitol Hill and the White House. Maryland officials, meanwhile, pushed the sites in Prince George’s County, arguing that it was already home to about a quarter of the region’s federal workforce as well as agencies and installations like NASA and Joint Base Andrews, a military facility.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said the GSA proposal means that a “relatively ugly, out-of-date building will be replaced by an up-to-date commercial building.”
“The FBI is one of the most respected law enforcement agencies in the world,” Hoyer said. “The kind of people that work there are well-educated, very professional, and I think any jurisdiction would be more than happy to have that kind of facility.”
The GSA will now start to assess the environmental impact of building on the three sites, take comments from the public and solicit bids from potential developers.