Panel OKs 3,000-worker intelligence campus -- Gazette.Net







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The National Capital Planning Commission approved by unanimous voice vote a master plan to build a new federal intelligence community campus in Bethesda, on a site that was home to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency headquarters until it moved last year to Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

Multiple intelligence agencies will replace the geospatial agency, which employed 3,000 workers.

The vote followed a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to limit a new sabotage-secured garage to 1,825 spaces, instead of 2,200, as originally proposed. Army officials spent the last few months negotiating with community groups to drop opposition to the project, which federal officials decided on with no local input in 2009.

“We feel that the primary issues related to forest preservation, traffic and views have been minimized by this design,” said commission planner Jeff Hinkle. “This is a great model in how to reuse a federal facility.”

He noted that removal of a significant amount of surface parking in favor of green space and other efforts to preserve trees will help correct decades of erosion and environmental degradation under the previous federal tenant. A new stormwater system is designed to limit runoff into the Potomac River at the 39-acre facility, which sits off MacArthur Boulevard and Sangamore Road.

The campus master plan would result in the loss of no more than 0.75 acres of forest, although the commission urged the Army to set a goal to limit deforestation to 0.2 acres. The plan also scraps a proposed helicopter landing pad, which had caused local uproar.

The bump up in parking — from the existing 1,480 surface spaces — had stirred neighbor outrage about diminished Potomac River views and deforestation. But several community associations ultimately endorsed the plan, which would allow for the Army Corps to seek approval for an additional 200 surface spaces if ride-sharing and shuttle bus programs fail to keep at least 1,200 intelligence community workers out of their cars.

Several commission members praised Army officials for efforts to address local concerns, although others noted that the community was frozen out of the initial planning before the project became public in 2010. The Pentagon pushed aside a bid by the National Institutes of Health to use the 39-acre site in 2005, according to a memorandum released in 2010 by Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington.

Although no negative votes were voiced, commission member Harriet Tregoning urged the Army to reconsider the need to build a secure garage at the edge of a forested area.

“This is a crazy parking solution,” she said, suggesting that a garage could be built next to a nearby strip mall.

But building a garage secure from sabotage is needed for an intelligence campus, said Jim Manzelmann, executive agent for the director of national intelligence.

The plan calls for demolishing two of the five buildings on the site, then constructing a contiguous series of hallways to connect the remaining three buildings, all of which will be renovated. The base will be reopened as the Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda.

The first phase of the project, set to include demolition of two of the older buildings on the campus, is expected to cost $40 million. Costs for the rest of the project have not been calculated yet but are expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Energy firm plans move to Baltimore’s Harbor Point

Exelon of Chicago and Constellation Energy Group announced plans to move to new headquarters in Baltimore’s Harbor Point development, leaving a vacancy of about 100,000 square feet in the city’s struggling central business district.

The move, contingent on Exelon’s $7.9 billion acquisition of the Baltimore company, is the latest sign of the exodus from Baltimore’s renaissance area just north of the Inner Harbor. Tenant consolidations and the migration east left the central business district with 1.2 million square feet of vacant space at the end of 2011.

But the move reflects the boom to the east, where new residents have resulted in a reversal of Baltimore’s population for the first time in more than 50 years.

Harbor Point is one of the few major development sites left on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Plans include 1.8 million square feet of office, retail and hotel space for the 27-acre former industrial area, which is south of the Inner Harbor East Development and next to Fells Point.

“We are excited to move forward with our plans to build a new Baltimore headquarters facility, bringing significant benefits to the city of Baltimore, including additional jobs and tax revenue,” said Exelon President and COO Christopher M. Crane said in a news release. “We are committed to Baltimore’s downtown and its business district, and we look forward to being a growing part of the Baltimore community as the overall vitality of the city’s downtown continues to flourish.”

Exelon selected Harbor East Development Group to develop the new headquarters, which the company said will accommodate 300,000 to 370,000 rentable square feet, a trading floor size of at least 70,000 square feet, office floor size of about 30,000 square feet and availability for occupancy in 2014.

“It was clear from our first discussion with Exelon that they wanted a unique headquarters facility that would create a dynamic home for their growing Baltimore work force,” said Michael S. Beatty, president of Harbor East Development Group. “When people visit this site in three years, they will realize just how committed Exelon and Constellation are to not only their employees but to the greater community and the environment. This project will be a model catalyst for the development of a truly sustainable and vibrant neighborhood.”

Construction of the new building was a commitment made as part of the companies’ settlement with the state of Maryland, the Maryland Energy Administration, the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council announced Dec. 15. Under the settlement, Exelon, Constellation and Baltimore Gas & Electric will provide a package of benefits totaling more than $1 billion and expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in Maryland, including 1,000 jobs related to construction.

The Exelon-Constellation deal has received approval by the Department of Justice, the New York Public Service Commission, the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the shareholders of Exelon and Constellation. It also requires regulatory approvals by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Corporate Office Properties sells White Marsh assets for $19.2M

Corporate Office Properties Trust announced that it sold five buildings in the White Marsh submarket in Baltimore County for $19.2 million.

The deal, which will net the Columbia company $18.5 million, includes about 163,000 square feet of space. The buildings combined are 83.2 percent leased.

Four of the five buildings were constructed in the mid- to late 1980s.

The White Marsh sale is part of the company’s strategic reallocation plan to sell off suburban office buildings announced in April. The company so far has sold $95.9 million of buildings and adjacent land containing about 1.15 million square feet, and realized net proceeds of $88.5 million. The goal is to make deals for $512 million worth of operating properties.

The company also sold a 95,000-square-foot building in San Antonio that was completed to the shell structure stage in 2010. The $15.5 million deal netted $15.1 million.

“The White Marsh asset sales represent meaningful progress toward executing our strategic reallocation plan and the sale of our San Antonio development property validates the desirability and appeal of our Sentry Gateway campus," said Randall M. Griffin, the company’s CEO, in a statement.

J.C. Penney opening in Aberdeen this fall

MacKenzie Retail announced that J.C. Penney will be the second anchor at the Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center in Aberdeen when it opens this fall.

The national department store retailer will join lead anchor Wegmans in the center, which is being developed by Ward Development Group.

“We look forward to welcoming J.C. Penney to our growing community,” said MacKenzie Retail senior vice president and principal Thomas L. Fidler Jr. in a statement. “Their commitment to style and quality will complement our existing tenant mix helping Box Hill to elevate to our target audience’s high expectations.”

The Plano, Texas, retailer, which now calls itself jcpenney, is undergoing a major restructuring that includes lowering prices permanently instead of continually offering sales and hiring a new marketing agency.

“By having jcpenney as the newest addition to our growing tenant mix, this will allow us to go after many of the national retailers that have always wanted to be in Harford County, but could not identify the right location,” Ward Development President Jim Martin said in the statement.

Located within a mile of Interstate 95, Box Hill has more than 450,000 square feet of retail space and 50,000 square feet of restaurants. An additional 88,000 square feet of multilevel office buildings is planned to complement the 200,000 square feet of space in the Box Hill Corporate Center.

Office Movers expands and renews In Landover

Lincoln Property announced the expansion and renewal with Office Movers for 68,328 square feet of space at 3636 Pennsy Drive in Landover.

Lincoln represents Invesco Real Estate/Knickerbocker Properties, owners of the 346,014-square-foot building.

Lincoln also announced it took over leasing of 1400 Spring St. in Silver Spring, a 73,903-square-foot office building that Peel Properties bought last year for $11.5 million.

Commercial real estate news items may be mailed to Robert Rand, The Business Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; emailed to; or faxed to 301-670-7183.