Greenbelt backs developer’s pitch for FBI headquarters -- Gazette.Net


The Greenbelt City Council has approved a developer’s proposal to relocate the FBI headquarters there from Washington, which would fit with a new sector plan adopted this past month by the Prince George’s County Planning Board.

By unanimous voice vote Monday night, the council endorsed a letter of support sought by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville, who sits on the Appropriations Committee. The letter was needed to dispel any notion that city officials oppose such a move by the FBI to north of the Greenbelt Metrorail station, said Mayor Judith Davis.

“It would certainly be a coup if we got it,” Davis said of the FBI headquarters.

Landing the FBI in Greenbelt would fulfill some of the most-cherished dreams of local and county officials, who have complained for years that the General Services Administration has ignored potential Prince George’s development sites when it chooses where to place federal office buildings. At stake is a 2.1 million-square-foot office complex that would be home to more than 11,000 well-paid federal workers.

Such a move to the city represents the best possibility for moving ahead with development under the Greenbelt Metro Area and Md. 193 Corridor Sector Plan and zoning map amendment adopted by the Planning Board on Dec. 13. The plan, which covers 1,144 acres around the Metro station in Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights, identifies the area north of the station as the site for a large private-sector or federal employer.

Garth Beall, manager of Renard Development, said moving the FBI headquarters would spur long-stalled development around the Greenbelt Metro station, where his company has a joint agreement north of the station with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metro.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” he said.

Beall laid out a still-evolving proposal to build a mixed-use complex in the north core area next to the Metro station. He described a “campus of four or five buildings of various heights, with the maximum having about 10 stories at the eastern end of the property.”

That would be the new FBI headquarters, with a mix of residential and commercial space between it and the Metro station. Renard and other developers have until March 4 to respond to a request for information issued this past month to develop a new FBI headquarters. GSA officials met Thursday in Washington with potential developers to discuss the project, which includes the possibility of a trade of property that would turn over the existing FBI site, an obsolete 2.4 million-square-foot building in downtown Washington that was completed in 1974.

“Taking over the existing FBI downtown is probably as much a headache as (it is) a gold mine,” Beall said.

Another possible headache for local officials is the proliferation of other potential FBI sites. At least three other locations might be contending for the prize in Prince George’s County, in addition to a growing list in Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and Washington.

Greenbelt council members debated whether their letter should oppose specific other possible headquarters sites, singling out the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An FBI move there would be of the least benefit, said Councilman Rodney Roberts, who noted that federal ownership of the site would mean no local, county or state property tax revenues would be generated.

Ultimately, the council settled on broader language stating no other proposed site in or near Greenbelt is similarly suited as the north core Metro location.

That includes the south core land next to the station, where CRM Mid-Atlantic Properties of Atlanta, a unit of SunTrust Bank, gained control of the 243-acre Greenbelt Station project this past year after the original developer defaulted on its loan. Roberts said the south property is the “perfect site” because its isolation would best suit the FBI’s security needs.

But Councilwoman Leta Mach said that would defeat the purpose of locating next to a Metro station.

“FBI employees should be able to walk from the Metro to the office,” she said. “They can’t do that from the south core.”

Two small condo projects planned for Bethesda

Developers are getting back into the condominium game, with two small luxury conversion projects announced for downtown Bethesda among the latest signals that the boom in multifamily housing is expanding beyond apartments.

Toll Brothers of Horsham, Pa., said it is expanding its luxury urban brand into the Washington region with the acquisition of a downtown Bethesda property, where it plans to build 60 condos. No price was disclosed on the deal.

The property at 4915 Hampden Lane is part of an assemblage of lots where the prior owner won approval to convert four single-family homes into an 81,000-square-foot condo building with an 88-space garage. The property is three blocks from the Bethesda Metro station. Toll plans a seven-story luxury building with underground parking that will be marketed by its City Living division.

The company plans to start construction this fall, with sales starting in the spring of 2014.

“We are extremely excited to be expanding the Toll Brothers City Living brand into the strong and highly-desirable Greater Washington, D.C., market,” CEO Douglas C. Yearley Jr. said in a news release.

The acquisition occurs in conjunction with the opening of a new Toll Brothers City Living Greater D.C. urban office in downtown Bethesda.

“With significant capital on hand, we are positioned to close quickly on deals in prime urban locations,” said Stephen Alfandre, director of acquisitions for City Living D.C. “The new site on Hampden Lane is a prime example, and we are actively looking for more development sites to complement it.”

Also in Bethesda, Starr Capital of Chevy Chase announced it plans to build a 70-unit condo building at 4990 Fairmont Ave. The 17-story will replace a recently closed BP gas station at the corner of Fairmont and Old Georgetown Road.

Ground broken on new Maple Lawn office building

St. John Properties of Baltimore and Greenebaum Enterprises announced construction of a new 138,000-square-foot class A office building in Maple Lawn, a 600-acre mixed-use business community in Howard County.

The four-story project at 8135 Maple Lawn Blvd. in Fulton is slated for delivery in November. Development of the complex includes 388,000 square feet of existing office space, plus the development rights for more than 800,000 of additional square feet of office space.

Located off U.S. 29 in the Washington-Baltimore corridor, Maple Lawn is a mixed-use community that is to have 1.2 million square feet of commercial office space, research and development/flex space, medical buildings, restaurants and retail uses in a Main Street-style design. Residential space will include 1,340 residential units and a hotel and conference center is also part of the development program.

“Continued strong leasing momentum at Maple Lawn, as evidenced by the recent signing of ELTA North America and Regus representing more than 25,000 square feet of space, has provided us with the confidence to move forward with this new speculative office building,” Jerry Wit, St. John’s senior vice president for marketing, said in a statement. “With the continued emergence of economic drivers, such as cybersecurity initiatives, and the growing demand of companies seeking a presence in the Washington-Baltimore Corridor marketplace, we are extremely confident about the leasing prospects for this new project.”

Colliers adds 554,489 square feet to portfolio

Colliers International in Baltimore announced its property management group added four buildings totaling 554,489 to its management portfolio.

Three are in Columbia: 9030 Old Annapolis Road, a 28,750-square-foot flex building that is 100 percent owner-occupied by Way Station; 9176 Red Branch Road, where Colliers retained the management for an 80,950-square-foot flex building after it was sold in December to 9176 Red Branch LLC, a family-owned entity; and 7075-7079 Oakland Mills Road, a two-building, 444,789 square-foot industrial warehouse project purchased by TA Associates in September.

Colliers’ Columbia office also is now managing at 1718 Woodlawn Drive in Woodlawn a 160,810-square-foot office building that was transitioned from Wal-Mart Stores to a family partnership and is 100 percent occupied by the GSA and Social Security Administration.

The company also was hired to manage 9610 Gunston Drive, a 163,440-square-foot industrial building in Lorton, Va. The building is fully occupied, with the GSA among its larger tenants.

Annapolis Junction warehouse trades for $8.3M

TA Associates Realty of Boston bought a distribution warehouse in Annapolis Junction from Emory Properties of Towson for $8.25 million, according to Cassidy Turley, which represented the seller.

The 144,571-square-foot Howard County property at 9060 Junction Drive is 48 precent leased.

“Since the investment environment for stabilized Class A product has become so competitive, industrial buyers in search for more yield are expanding and moving down the risk spectrum into value-add and Class B opportunities, as evidenced by this sale,” Jonathan M. Carpenter, senior vice president and principal at Cassidy Turley, said in a news release.

TA Associates also paid $13.7 million for a 205,000-square-foot industrial warehouse in Jessup to Stayton Associates, said Cassidy Turley, which represented the seller.

The Anne Arundel County property at 8125 Stayton Drive is fully leased to Capitol Express & Warehousing through 2018.

“The lack of new construction and land availability as well as tightening occupancy rates continue to make the Baltimore Washington Corridor a tier 1 industrial market for institutional capital,” James S. Wellschlager, senior vice president and principal at Cassidy Turley, said in a statement.

Rocky Gap casino construction set

Lakes Entertainment of Minneapolis announced it expects to begin construction in the second quarter of an event center, making room for a video slot machine casino at Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort.

The event center will replace existing convention space, which is being converted into a gambling facility with about 550 slot machines, a casino bar and a new food and beverage outlet. The new event center will be able to accommodate large groups and include several flexible-use meeting rooms and a formal high-end board room, according to company information.

The slots parlor is expected to open during the second quarter, and the event center is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter. The AAA four-diamond resort in McHenry includes a hotel, spa, two restaurants and golf course.

Big Lots store leases at Rising Sun Towne Centre

Brixmor Property Group of New York announced the discount chain Big Lots signed a 39,003-square-foot lease for a store at Rising Sun Towne Centre.

The mall is north off I-95 and south of Conowingo Road in Cecil County.

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.