Nov 15, 2022 - News

Unpacking the FBI's search for a new headquarters

The front of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

The FBI is inching closer to a site for its new home.

Why it matters: The FBI HQ sweepstakes offers the suburbs a prized employer and frees up an entire block in the heart of D.C. to build new homes and retail that could boost downtown's recovery.

State of play: The finalists are two sites in Prince George’s County — one at the Greenbelt Metro station and another at the former Landover Mall — and one 58-acre parcel near the Springfield Metro station in Northern Virginia. The General Services Administration is leading the search, which was expected to wrap up by year-end.

  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County officials slammed the GSA last month for issuing new criteria that advantaged the Springfield site due to its proximity to existing FBI facilities.
  • Another key criterion is access to transportation. A three-person panel that includes one representative each from the GSA and FBI will make the final decision.
  • Northern Virginia leaders are optimistic they will land the site.

The intrigue: The Springfield site would put the FBI within the intel footprint in Northern Virginia, including an FBI Academy.

  • Then there’s this: A giant concrete warehouse on the site is rumored to be a CIA facility to train people who pick locks, per WBJ reporter Tristan Navera.

Yes, but: FBI leadership and its agents' association previously said they want to stay in D.C. close to the Department of Justice, the Washington Post reported in April.

What they’re saying: Axios reached public officials across the DMV, but no one seemed to know when a decision could land.

  • “Don’t have a date yet. Could be soon,” Jamie Smith, chief of staff to Virginia Rep. Gerald Connolly, said in an email.
  • The GSA did not return Axios' email seeking comment.

Between the lines: If — and when — the FBI vacates its Pennsylvania Avenue site, the District would have the opportunity to gain control of the land from the federal government and transform it into housing, retail, and more.

Catch up quick: The search process was paused in 2017, and marred by accusations from Democrats that then-President Trump intervened to prevent the FBI from moving out of Pennsylvania Avenue to forestall another hotel opening across the street from his own hotel.

The brutalist J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building is nowadays known more for its crumbling concrete and soul-sucking presence.

The suburbs believe gaining the new HQ would boost economic development. That’s certainly the argument in Prince George’s County, which has been historically underinvested and could benefit from a federal government agency the same way Northern Virginia has.

In a recent Post op-ed, former Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans recently re-upped a previous idea to build the new HQ on the banks of the Anacostia River in Poplar Point.

  • But that proposal is not in play, according to Susana Castillo, spokesperson for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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