Rendering of proposed new FBI headquarters
Rendering of proposed new FBI headquarters

There’s a bidding war between Virginia and Maryland to snag a planned, 2.1 million-square-foot Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters campus. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is in for $317 million in state and local funds, according to the Washington Business Journal. Governor Terry McAuliffe is in for $120 million. In both cases most of the money would be applied to make transportation improvements near the proposed sites.

The Virginia location would be in the Springfield area, and the funds would be used to mitigate the transportation impact of relocating thousands of employees from Washington, D.C., to Northern Virginia. There are many interesting angles to this story:

  • Would the $120 million McAuliffe proposes spending benefit mainly the FBI and its employees, or would the contemplated improvements benefit others in the Springfield area as well?
  • Where would the money come from, and what alternate uses are there for that money? What other projects would be deferred?
  • How would the move alter commuting patterns? Would a significant number of employees be “reverse commuting” from Washington, D.C., to Virginia? Will the relocation ease or stress Northern Virginia’s transportation problems?
  • What would be the economic benefits of bringing the FBI to Virginia? Presumably, as a federal facility, the headquarters would generate no real estate tax revenues. Would a Virginia location inspire many FBI employees to move to Virginia — and, given the lack of property tax revenue, would they represent a net gain to the state and local governments and their taxpayers?
  • Who owns the Springfield site for the new headquarters? How much would the property owner stand to benefit from this deal and resulting investment in transportation improvements?


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11 responses to “Questions about Bidding War for FBI HQ”

  1. Springfield — what a wonderful place to work and to live! Brought to you by the planning expertise of our federal government. Good questions all, but if we assume those economic benefits are positive to the region and the State, just who is poised to make money off this decision?

    1. Springfield would be literally the last place I’d consider in Fairfax County. It’s just barely workable after billions of dollars of transportation spending. $120m would be a drop in the bucket of what will be ultimately needed.

      McAuliffe should take the $120m and fund a data science department at George Mason University. Everybody would be better off in the long run.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I had originally read that the FBI ruled out locations that did not have direct access to METRO but now I read that – that has changed and is no longer a requirement.

    all things equal – and they never are – I suspect there are quite a few suburban commuters to the FBI until shown data that contradicts that and moving it probably just would increase some commutes and decrease others.

    And what’s the argument to moving it to North Stafford where the FBI labs are at – at Quantico? We have a brand new VRE station in Spotsylvania and I’m quite sure the BOS would love to approve proposals for thousands of new homes within 2-3 miles of the station!

    In Spotsylvania – you can literally get twice the house for the money!

    that would be like a huge raise for existing employees!

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Virginians and Marylanders believe in moving agencies from the District to their states. But aren’t you going overboard? To Spotsy? Your as bad as former Senator Byrd from WVa. 😉

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    no no .. TMT – to Quantico – then those current employees living in Md could sell their homes , spent half of it on new homes in Spotsylvania and pocket the difference. They’d then ride VRE from Spotsylvania to Quantico…

    Life would be grand… no I-95 – a 30 minute commute by rail… no NoVa traffic… and if they REALLY wanted to go to DC for some event – no problem.

    Face it TMT – NoVa sucks for anyone other than those who are well entrenched into their careers and at the upper end of the pay scales and probably got their house decades ago.

    New folks – are screwed, blued and tatooed.

    Entry level salaries even at 50-100K won’t touch a standard subdivision home in NoVa.

    so those folks have to mega-commute and everything I hear – it’s a daily never-ending hellish ordeal where you feel lucky if there were no “incidents”.

    so – yes – move the FBI to Quantico – and let the FBI employees move to Spotsylvania… win-win-win!!!!

    1. Having the FBI in cahoots with the DoD and the CIA etc etc is a big deal. It was the lack of inter-agency cooperation which was a leading cause of the 9-11 mass murders. Moving the FBI to Spotsy makes no sense whatsoever.

      If you really wants to save money, move it to Accomack County.

      Most GS employees are entitled to locality pay which is geographically adjusted. Do you have any reason to believe the employees would be paid the same in Quanitco as downtown DC?

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Years ago, when I was a Bell System attorney, we had a training session for new lawyers. We went to New York and toured the then many facilities in NY and NJ. At one meeting in the Garden State one of the high level lawyers spoke to us about a variety of things including the federal government. Since he was originally from Oklahoma, he had some Midwestern common sense. He opined things would work better if more federal operations left Washington. For example, how about moving the USDA to Kansas City? He might have been right.

  5. Here is what I recall from previous discussions on this topic. Before Larry objects, no I can’t source my information, since most of it is from briefings I saw in the Washington Post over the past few years, and I forget when I saw those briefings.

    Who owns the Springfield site for the new headquarters? The Federal Gov’t. It is currently a GSA warehouse.

    How much would the property owner stand to benefit from this deal and resulting investment in transportation improvements? Probably a lot, but since it is the Federal Gov’t, the increase in property value for this facility would not show up on the property tax roles, unless the Federal Gov’t increases its payment in lieu of taxes accordingly.

    How would the move alter commuting patterns? The FBI did a study of commuting patterns of their employees, and any site other than a central Washington D.C. site would alter the commuting patterns (no surprise there.) Their employees are scattered throughout the greater Washington commuting region. The site in Springfield would decrease the commute for the folks in the I-95 corridor and some folks in Prince George’s county (MD), but increase the commute for the folks in many parts of Maryland and some parts of Virginia. The bottom line, no one site (VA or MD) was any better in terms of the commute than another. The Springfield site is near METRO. It is a longish walk (I think about 3/4 of a mile) but a doable walk for most of the FBI workforce. And the shuttle service for the FBI would run on back roads that have little traffic on them today.

    What would be the economic benefits of bringing the FBI to Virginia? Some to lots. The Springfield Mall area would see an immediate boost in consumer spending (meals, but also dry cleaning, sundries, and other such purchases.) The area would also see an increase in visitor revenue (the FBI gets a lot of visitors over the course of a year, and those folks would need a place to stay.) Companies which have contracts supporting the FBI would also relocate to the Springfield area.

  6. Spotsylvania for the FBI, ain’t gonna happen. Thanks, JNL, for the details.

    I read the Washington Post article on the FBI relocation yesterday — it appears there’s a lot more to this than just a new location for the FBI. There is, of course, the real-estate plum of the old FBI Building downtown, a single oversized building site fronting on Pennsylvania Avenue and two blocks deep (to E Street) and served by four(!) Metro Stations, probably the finest such site in Washington, DC; GSA proposes to give that property to the developer as the largest part of payment for building the new facility. There is the question of what would have to be done to clear Virginia’s proposed site near Springfield of its existing GSA warehouse, occupied it seems by a large CIA field office (maybe they would be the right candidates for relocation to Spotsylvania, LarryG, they know how to blend into the background). And there’s the battle over transportation improvements between Hogan and McAuliffe, with VA’s governor saying to GSA, “As you are well aware, of the three sites on the short list, Springfield requires the least amount of transportation improvements.”

    The proposed GSA-owned, CIA-occupied site at Springfield is bounded on the north by the Franconia-Springfield Parkway, on the east by the Metro and VRE stations (it’s the end of the Blue Line), and on the west by Loisdale Rd and I-95. The old but refurbished “Springfield Town Center” is just across the Parkway from this site. GSA has now released its Transportation Impact Assessments of this and the Maryland alternative sites as part of its EIS, found here:

    Interesting to think about how this could all unfold, especially if it unfolds in Virginia.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    geeze – let me repeat – NOT to Spotsylvania – but to Quantico!

    from there – FBI employees COULD decide to move to Spotsylvania and take VRE to Quantico!

    to JNL… what would I “object” to ?

    on the commutes – I agree – FBI employees are likely scattered all over the MSA .. I know for a fact we have them in the Fredericksburg Area so moving the current location in the MSA to another location in the MSA – would cause changes in commuting patterns but not convinced it would worsen them .

    My perception is that housing in MD is more expensive than housing in Spotsylvania ….

    Spotsylvania is 30 minutes from Quantico – via I-95 “normally” and via VRE – probably fairly consistently.

    The Marine Corp Base at Quantico is a large area – lots and lots of room for a FBI HQ… cheaper for taxpayers…. and easily accessible via I-95 – cheap housing in Spotsylvania AND a reverse commute for others who live north of Quantico.

    Quantico is also accessible via Amtrak from the North.

    if not Quantico -try Fort Belvoir… another military base with room for the FBI HQ.

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