After all the speeches, ceremonial shoveling and $3.4 billion tab, St. Elizabeths, the largest federal construction project since the Pentagon, will not actually serve as the ultimate uniter of the disjointed Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A core 14,000 DHS personnel, just under half of its DC area employees, will relocate to 4.5 million s.f. of space in the massive federal project, also future home of the Coast Guard headquarters. And yet on April 1st, the General Services Administration (GSA) will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for DHS - 1.1 million s.f. of leased space in the DC metro area to consolidate employees.
In her statement yesterday to the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security Elaine Duke, Undersecretary for Management at Homeland Security, said the DHS currently occupies over 7 million s.f. of office space in 46 locations throughout the DC area. Currently over 180 leases are set to expire between now and 2015. Bob Peck, Commissioner of GSA's Public Buildings Service, said the consolidation will maintain the four federally owned properties - St. Elizabeths, the Nebraska Avenue temporary HQ, the Secret Service Building and space in the Ronald Regan Building - as well as two standing long-term leases. The RFP will add another one to three locations for which new leases will be awarded in 2011 with employees moving in two to three years thereafter.
The space at St. Elizabeths is a significant step towards consolidating some of those widespread agencies, but it is far from being the panacea. DHS's new southeast HQ will serve as an "epicenter for DHS leadership, operations coordination, policy and program management." Everyone else will be reconfigured into government-owned buildings and long-term leased properties, with the hopes that an agency spread across more than 40 properties can be consolidated into a cozier 7 to 10 locations.
Though it is hard to imagine that a Pentagon- esque project is already insufficient to meet the needs of the agency for which it is being built, over-sized, empty commercial space in the DC area will get a boost. Properties like southwest's Constitution Center with its 1.3 million s.f. of space, blast-proof windows and in-house water filtration system leap to mind. There might even be available space in NoMa. Mike McGill, spokesperson for GSA in the National Capital Region, said the RFP does not require all 1.1 million s.f. of space to come from one location, smaller parcels may be eligible for consideration. GSA "is not against new construction, but we realize there is a lot of vacant existing space" in this climate. (We had heard the same rumor).
The new DHS site is funded partially through $650 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In total, the Recovery Act allocated $200 million to DHS and $450 million to GSA for construction of a new DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeths, $162 million of which will go to the Coast Guard facility alone.
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