Despite its proximity to public transit, the Greenbelt site for the potential FBI headquarters relocation would have to add more than 2,000 more parking spaces than the federal General Service Administration anticipated if the location is chosen, according to a new request for proposal issued by the federal GSA.
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 Greenbelt and the other in Landover — and the third is in Springfield, Virginia. The GSA hopes to announce the location by late this year.
The Greenbelt location is the closest to various modes of public transportation, including the Greenbelt Metro Station, which is a quarter of a mile from the site; the MARC station; the public bus service; and access to Interstate 95 and Interstate 495.
However, the GSA issued a new request for proposal on March 3 requiring the Greenbelt location to have one parking space for every 1.8 employees. This is a markup from its initial proposal requiring one parking space for every three employees, said Garth Beall, the manager of Renard Development Company, which will oversee the site’s project if Greenbelt is chosen.
In the GSA’s second proposal request, it stated “upon closer scrutiny” the original 1:3 parking space-employee ratios for the Greenbelt and Springfield locations “would not support the FBI’s mission.” It went on to state the modifications for each location: Greenbelt (1:1.8) and Springfield (1:1.7). Landover would remain the same at one parking space for every 1.5 employees.
“It reduces the advantage to the site,” Beall said. “Greenbelt is still the most transit-oriented site, but none of them are really as transit-oriented as they should be. Before [the second proposal request], Greenbelt and Springfield were almost identical with parking, but now there’s a 500-space difference.”
Although Greenbelt still requires fewer parking spaces per employee compared with the Landover and Springfield sites, the GSA should give Greenbelt site’s accessibility to transportation and other amenities more credit, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said.
“It’s too bad that the GSA isn’t recognizing the full benefit of being by a Metro station, but I think there’s still a bunch of things that make the Greenbelt site the most competitive,” Wojahn said. “Close proximity to the MARC line, the beltway, the University of Maryland, the other federal facilities around College Park. … There are many amenities that the employees of the FBI will be able to enjoy if [Greenbelt were] chosen.”
The National Capital Planning Commission has guidelines requiring federal sites to limit parking to one space per every three employees, but the GSA’s second proposal request went “significantly” above these rules, Beall said.
“It’s somewhat concerning. … It’s fairly similar to what any commercial office development would do, and there are a number of executive orders that really push the federal government to get very aggressive to promote transit use,” Beall said. “What they’re doing is inconsistent with that.”
On March 19, 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13693 — Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade — which requires these federal agencies to “consider the development of policies to promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees.”
“I understand that FBI headquarters is a little bit of a unique situation, and maybe there is a little bit of different consideration for employee parking, but I wouldn’t expect it to be this different,” Beall said.
These modifications would require the Greenbelt location to provide 6,076 spaces for the estimated 11,000 FBI employees. This is a 69 percent increase from the original proposal request’s estimate of 3,600 parking spaces.
“It’s always just a matter of figuring out where parking spaces go,” said Jessica Bellah, Greenbelt’s community planner. “It’s more difficult for Greenbelt because it doesn’t have as much space as the others, so [the parking garage] would have to go taller.”
Consulting companies typically base their parking estimates on the number of workers, where they live, surveys of the FBI’s workforce and current modes of transportation, Bellah said.
“A lot people are looking at the Greenbelt station and you don’t just have the Metro, but you also have the MARC station and buses, so you have a lot of public transportation,” she said. “We have to trust the consultants have used the best available data. The city does want this to be as transit-oriented as possible and believes there is significant transportation opportunity.”