Cybersecurity and criminal justice programs at the University of Maryland could see increased collaboration and growth if the General Services Administration chooses to relocate the FBI’s headquarters to Greenbelt, Chief Strategy Officer for Economic Development Ken Ulman said.
Last year, the FBI announced it would be relocating its headquarters to one of three possible locations. Two of those locations are within Prince George’s County, one in the nearby city of Greenbelt and another in Landover. The third is in Springfield, Virginia.
While the decision is not likely to come out until December or later, the City of College Park is already gearing up for this potential development, said Terry Schum, the city’s planning director.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Prince George’s County and for [the University of] Maryland,” Ulman said. “[The] county and Maryland have to seize this opportunity. These opportunities just don’t present themselves, and we cannot miss this one.”
In addition to creating benefits for the university, the potential FBI
relocation would support the economic development of the area, Schum said. Although the headquarters would be in Greenbelt, Schum said she believes many of the employees will want to live in College Park.
“For us, it’ll be accessible jobs, [and] it’ll be more demand for housing,” Schum said. “One of our goals is to create more housing types for people of all ages, so we’re getting fair amount of multi-family homes built; we’d like to improve our housing stock. I think Greenbelt will create demand for that, and it will also create a need for spin-off businesses.”
Plus, the FBI’s potential move to Greenbelt could encourage more companies to relocate, allowing for additional retail and restaurant opportunities in the area, Ulman said.
“The more people that are going to work right up the road are more potential customers to support restaurants and support new retail opportunities and conferences,” he said.
The university supports the FBI coming to this state, said Brian Darmody, associate vice president for the university’s corporate and foundation relations, who cited the potential for partnerships with existing university programs and the FBI.
Proximity matters,” Darmody said. “We have a lot of programs that align well with the FBI. We have a fire protection engineering program; we have one of one the nation’s strongest criminology programs; we have a very strong computer science and computer forensic programs — and the FBI is very involved with those programs.”
Michel Cukier, the director of the university’s Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students, also said having the FBI closer to the university would be a “positive” move.
“We could build stronger cooperation with them like we are doing with Northrop Grumman, [the National Security Agency] and other partners,” Cukier said. Students “could have the opportunity to have instructors from the FBI and have guest lectures or seminars. There would be the opportunity or FBI to work as research mentors for ACES students.”
The headquarters would be located on the eastern edge of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, taking up about 4.5 acres of land, Schum said. The environmental impact report and residents have both expressed concerns about this location.
Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the city has been working with developers to address challenges with corresponding noise, density, traffic and building heights.
Another concern is the accessibility of the Greenbelt wetlands or conservatory land, District 1 Councilwoman Christine Nagle said. About 75 protected acres of state-owned land would no longer by accessible to residents if the FBI relocated.
Although this land does not currently have trails for residents, the plan was to develop trails for residents in the future, Nagle said.
“It’s considered an ecological wonderland. Being so close to the urban area, it’s a real treasure to have that,” Nagle said. City officers want to “configure a compromise so [the FBI] can have their security and the people can still have access.”
Despite these challenges, both Nagle and Wojahn said they are eager about the potential and see it as a great opportunity to improve and increase amenities and job opportunities.
“Everybody wants to see the FBI come to their site; it’s a pretty heated political thing,” Wojahn said. “If you look at it objectively, I think Greenbelt is the best site, and we’re very excited to hear [the decision.]”