Local developers vie for TSA headquarters

Local developers vie for TSA headquarters

By Susan Hale Thomas (Image/City of Alexandria)

City development leaders are hopeful that the Transportation Security Administration will soon call the Port City home. But they aren’t putting all of their eggs in one basket.

City councilors unanimously approved regional developer JGB’s plans to build a 16-story office building in the Eisenhower Valley in the hopes of wooing the federal agency earlier this month.

And Jones Lang LaSalle is courting the agency with its already constructed 600,000 square-foot Victory Center, also in the Eisenhower Valley.

JBG’s plan is to build a new 16-story office building on 4.65 acres at 312 Taylor Dr. The proposal calls for 631,427 square feet of space, complete with a fitness center, cafeteria, credit union, conference center and an above-ground parking garage that would hold nearly 1,000 vehicles.

According to city staff, the plan would provide improved access for cars, a Capital BikeShare station, garden areas accessible to the public and a $1.2 million contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund.

Stephanie Landrum, acting president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said her organization is doing all it can to support developers as they go through the procurement process with General Services Administration.

“Either site would be great for the city,” she said. “The Victory Center would require no changes. An anchor like this would be very beneficial.

“At Hoffman, it’s new construction, near the Metro, which would create new jobs and would support the local businesses in the area.”

By putting Alexandria’s transit-oriented office sites up for consideration, Landrum said AEDP seeks to help the city compete for larger federal government contracts that come up in the D.C. area.

Local attorney Cathy Puskar, who represents JBG, said the developer and city staff had worked under an accelerated schedule to meet GSA deadlines for the — half the time normally mandated for projects in the design process she said.

“We anticipate the announcement of the GSA decision,” she said. “We originally thought it would be next month but it’s been delayed a couple of months as they go through the [National Environmental Policy Act] process. We hope to have an answer soon.”

Since the building is designed for a federal government tenant, the plan involved both cost restrictions and the inclusion of rigid security measures. The building would feature staggered heights, with glass portions sectioned off by a red concrete centerpiece and entryway.

Noting the distinctive glass pyramid of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office building and its landmark qualities, City Councilor Paul Smedberg said the proposed design sets a precedent for the Eisenhower Valley and that council should be mindful of future planning.

“Is there any plan to light the red section or entryway to make that a focal point of the building itself?” Smedberg asked. “What are the buildings people are going to point to in 50 or 60 years? … [We should] not just putting up boxes with windows.”

Smedberg remarked he had just noticed a building under construction in the Tysons Corner area that he found attractive with its unique use of a black speckled brick.

Puskar reminded councilors that there were constraints that the developer needed to keep in mind.

“(Brick) is not possible for this building,” she said. “Council did not give any economic incentives for this particular federal tenant and we have to be very mindful of costs if we want to have the opportunity to be selected.”

But City Councilor Del Pepper delighted at the opportunity to point out her colleague’s acceptance of brick.

“When Paul Smedberg recommends brick I really do take note; … if it’s a brick, it’s a revolution in his thinking,” Pepper said. “I love the design of this building. I think it really makes quite a positive statement. It’s bold and very interesting and it will be seen from the beltway and I think that is our statement to anybody who passes by that Alexandria is developing just fine, thank you.”

Although some councilors expressed reservations about the prominent use of concrete in the facade, the material is required for the planning and construction of all new federal office buildings, which must meet blast requirements required by the Interagency Security Committee.

Puskar said JBG would be working with staff to finalize designs for the building but the developer said any changes would have to be minor.

“It is a price-only competition, if we want to get TSA in Alexandria,” she said. “Staff, I think, has pushed us very appropriately and I think the design has come a long way, but I don’t want to give a false sense that there’s going to be a lot of added embellishment in costs to this building, because we really want to get this tenant into Alexandria.”

Pepper agreed.

“Well, we want them to come too,” she said.