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GSA Deal: Deeds, Not Dollars, for Work

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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Trying to purge its books of white-elephant properties, the federal government has hatched a novel offer for construction contractors: provide redevelopment services in exchange for titles to two federal properties, including one where thousands of people are still working.

The U.S. General Services Administration, landlord to thousands of federal properties nationwide, has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking developers who would consider providing construction and development services in exchange for two buildings south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Cotton Annex
Photos unless otherwise credited: U.S. GSA

The long-vacant former USDA building known as the Cotton Annex is one of two buildings that GSA is considering offering developers in exchange for construction services.

Stage 1 of the two-stage RFQ, released Monday (April 7), invites bidders to submit proposals for modernizing, expanding and renovating three buildings as part of GSA's multiyear redevelopment of the old St. Elizabeths Campus in southeast Washington.

Multiagency Redevelopment

The massive St. Elizabeths project will include a new centralized headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security,  U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The secure setting will eventually host 14,000 employees on the 350-acre site where the "Government Hospital for the Insane" (later, St. Elizabeths Hospital) was constructed in 1855.

St. Elizabeths Hospital
Creative Commons / Tomf688

The Center Building at St. Elizabeths Hospital (pictured in 2006) in Washington D.C. dates to the U.S. Civil War. The GSA is redeveloping the hospital campus, a National Historic Landmark district.

Although the hospital continues to operate on the East Campus, GSA took control of the West Campus in 2004. A Master Plan approved in 2009 details plans for 4.5 million gross square feet of office space and 1.5 million gross square feet of parking space on both campuses. Most of the buildings are pursuing LEED 2009 Gold certification.

Although the campus is designated a National Historic Landmark District, some of the buildings have been demolished and their materials recycled.

Deeds for Developers

The buildings-for-services idea arose in 2012 when the GSA floated a Request for Information about redeveloping five outdated federal offices in the Southwest D.C. community known as Federal Triangle South.

A 2010 Presidental Memorandum tasked GSA with making better use of its facilities or disposing of them, and the agency is moving more than 800 federally owned properties into the disposal pipeline.

Federal Triangle South Federal Triangle South

Left: Federal Triangle South in Washington D.C. stretches from the National Mall to the Anacostia River. Right: The buildings involved in the current RFQ are the Cotton Annex (red) and the General Services Administration office (ROB-NCR in blue).

The National Capital Planning Commission, the federal planning agency for the District of Columbia) envisions the Federal Triangle South area (also now known as the Southwest EcoDistrict) as a sustainable community that stretches from the National Mall to the Southwest Waterfront.

The 2012 RFI sought a development vision for the area that would meet the community's needs, incorporate the planning recommendations of local commissions, and address the long-term needs and budget of the federal government.

The RFI drew responses from 10 developers, encouraging GSA Administrator Daniel M. Tangherlini to take the project to the next step.

The Deal

Ridding the agency of two aging buildings that are expensive to operate while giving developers free properties ripe for redevelopment could prove a win-win, the agency figures.

GSA building

The GSA's office on 7th Street SW would be part of the deal. More than 2,900 people from GSA and the Department of Homeland Security work in the 80-year-old, seven-story building.

The two buildings in the new RFQ are:

  • The seven-story, 845,178-square-foot GSA office building at 301 7th St. SW. The 80-year-old building sits on three acres, with below-grade and surface parking. More than 2,900 people (1,500 from GSA; 1,440 from DHS) currently work in the building.
  • The six-story Cotton Annex (a former Department of Agriculture building), at 300 12th St. SW. It has nearly 80,000 square feet on two acres and has been vacant for several years

'Reexamine and Reassess'

“The Federal Triangle South project is an opportunity to reexamine how the federal government uses these buildings and reassess how this space fits into the surrounding community,” Tangherlini said in a statement announcing the RFQ.

USCG construction

The new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters is under construction in the first phase of the multi-stage, multi-year redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths Campus in Washington, D.C.

“This action will facilitate the city’s efforts to transform this precinct that is dominated by federal office buildings, into a mixed-use neighborhood that will both provide for a modern workplace for federal employees and create a vibrant, diverse, and special community of its own.”

The deadline for RFQ questions is April 17, 2014. Responses are due by May 22, 2014.

Offerors deemed qualified in Stage 1 of the project will be invited to submit proposals in Stage 2, identifying specific consideration services that would be provided in exchange for the two properties identified.

The current project is considered something of a test run, The Washington Post reports. Tangherlini has also proposed swapping the J. Edgar Hoover Building for a new FBI headquarters campus.

   

Tagged categories: Bidding; Construction; Contractors; Developers; Government; Government contracts; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures

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