The currently vacant Cotton Annex in Southwest Washington

The currently vacant Cotton Annex in Southwest Washington Flickr user mr_t_in_dc

GSA Sets Stage to Sell Federal Triangle Properties

Swap of land for services is part of larger plan to reduce federal footprint.

The General Services Administration on Monday took steps to attract developers to two properties in Washington’s Federal Triangle complex, answering congressional critics who complained of inaction and furthering the Obama administration’s ongoing bid to shrink the government’s real estate footprint.

The agency released a Request for Qualification, soliciting development and construction firms willing to swap services for the government in exchange for taking the title to the currently vacant Cotton Annex in Southwest Washington as well as the nearby GSA Regional Office Building.

GSA in turn would use the services to complete the transfer of 1,500 personnel from around the area to its newly renovated F Street Northwest headquarters, as well as continue its ongoing conversion of three buildings at the St. Elizabeths hospital campus in Southeast as part of the consolidated headquarters of the Homeland Security Department.

“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,” GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini said. “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.”

Tangherlini stressed to reporters in a conference call that the moves are important to “getting vacant properties off our rolls and back contributing to the economy and the communities which are hosting them.” The moves would open local infrastructure development opportunities in line with the long-term vision for a sustainable community in the Federal Triangle South area identified by the National Capital Planning Commission’s Southwest EcoDistrict.

For GSA, the twin moves would also cut workplace costs and reduce energy consumption by bringing more employees into GSA’s open office “total workplace” program.

Overall since 2010, GSA reported, it has completed 565 property disposal transactions, generating $207.5 million in proceeds and eliminating more than 28,121 acres of excess government land.

The Cotton Annex, which has been vacant since 2007 and was last used by the Agriculture Department, was the site of a March 22, 2012, field hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Its then-chairman, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., blasted GSA for not acting more quickly to dispose of the annex and other vacant federal properties. Reached on Monday, Mica told Government Executive, “It is refreshing to see that GSA is finally getting off its duff and taking on one of the most valuable assets. I’m encouraged and will keep holding their feet to the fire.”

Later this spring, Mica plans a hearing in Beltsville, Md., to pressure GSA to take action on 200 buildings deemed as excess at the 6,500-acre Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.