West End To Get 6,400 Army Jobs, New Development

West End To Get 6,400 Army Jobs, New Development

The U.S. Army announced Monday that Alexandrias Mark Center beat out Springfield and another Alexandria site for about 6,400 Army jobs.

The decision, involving the Army, the Department of Defense and the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission established in 2005, comes after a year-long study of the three sites and will save the federal government millions of dollars in building and relocation costs while providing the city with a flood of new jobs in September of 2011. The Pentagon mandated the dispersion of nearly 20,000 defense workers to more secure locations around Washington, D.C., in 2005.

Mark Center was chosen in part because total costs would amount to less than the Springfield and Victory Center (a building project on Eisenhower Ave. that will meet federal standards) sites, Army officials said. The mandate states that the project must be completed by Sept. 15, 2011. Duke Realty, which owns the Mark Center, is expected to sell the property by December.

The Mark Center was selected by the U.S. Army because it was both technically superior and the lowest cost site, Army spokesman Dave Foster said. By law we are required to move these workers by September 15, 2011. Right now thats the law and we must strive to meet that.

The guaranteed maximum price of the Mark Center is $950 million, according to Foster, but the government is not at liberty to release the amount of the Victory Center offer. Foster said the Mark Centers 16-acre plot of undeveloped land is an ideal spot compared with the expensive lease the Army pays for its workers at a Crystal City location. And because many commuters come from south of Alexandria, some traffic could be stifled before the Districts section of I 395. 

State officials have expressed concern with the decision because of its movement away from smart growth, bundling commercial and residential development around transportation centers like Metro stations.

The Armys decision was predicated solely on meeting BRACs arbitrary 2011 deadline, Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) said. While Im disappointed the GSA Warehouse in Springfield was not chosen, the push to redevelop the site will continue. A location so close to Metro should be housing workers, not documents and equipment. I plan to continue working with the Fairfax County Board and other leaders in Southeast Fairfax to redevelop this grossly underutilized facility.

Mark Center is right off Seminary Road on the citys West End, close to I 395. But the closest Metro station is the Van Dorn Street Station, about four miles away. The Washington, D.C., region is home to some of the nations worst traffic, and with Virginias transportation funding facing some budget cuts, some officials said that the new destination is not optimal, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told WTOP News Tuesday. But he added that the initial planned location, an annex of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax, would have been nearly a disaster in terms of transportation infrastructure. 

Alexandria officials, who have various transit-oriented development initiatives underway, have extolled the Armys choice as a means of economic development for the city, especially for the West End. Between the Armys new structure and the mixed-use redevelopment planned for Landmark Mall and the Van Dorn Street area, the West End could see a bulk of economic growth. Government-use development was actually an original component of that plan.
I think the fact that the site has some challenging transportation issues theyre workable, Mayor Bill Euille said. The bright side is that this site will provide the incentive for the [Landmark/Van Dorn] project to stay on track and move along.

Duke Realty told Euille that they would put up $10 million dollars to help with transportation infrastructure, including shuttle service to and from the Virginia Railway Express station adjacent to King Street Metro Station. The Pentagon and the Commonwealth will also help fund the process. Of course, nothing about 6,400 jobs coming to a city in an economic slump albeit less than its regional counterparts seems negative.

I see it as a positive shot in the arm, Euille said. In addition to the fact that both [increased] residential and retail will still occur, not only for Landmark but adjacent areas down to the Van Dorn corridor, there will be some additional spinoff on the Victory center area.

Euille added that when he asked why the Victory Center was not chosen, an Army official told him not to worry about the site, which is expected to house federal employees in the future; it will take care of itself.