Earlier this year, Greenbelt’s chances for hosting the new FBI headquarters seemed good. The federal government had narrowed the options to Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield, Virginia. But now, the FBI will not be getting new headquarters at all.
The Trump administration has canceled the search for a new FBI headquarters, leaving the bureau to continue operating in its current location in downtown Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported Monday.
Emmett Jordan, mayor of Greenbelt, said he was “stunned” and “upset” about the sudden news, especially given the fact that the decision comes after several delays in the long-drawn-out process.
“Greenbelt has really committed enormous amounts of time and resources trying to respond to the General Services Administration’s request and trying to work with them to move the project forward,” he added. “The developer – the private sector partner – has literally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and effort working with the GSA to try and accommodate them and put the FBI in Greenbelt.”
Greenbelt hosting the headquarters would have resulted in a revenue boost for local businesses and restaurants with its 11,000 new jobs, Jordan noted. Since the Greenbelt Metro stop is in a very accessible location, he said this could’ve also encouraged people to take a greener commute, ultimately helping business for WMATA too.
Despite the economic losses, Jordan said the real issue for businesses is that the federal government has shown it is not fully reliable.
“How can local governments and municipalities like Greenbelt and College Park really function if we can’t rely on the federal government to follow through on their plans? It just seems like a huge waste of public and private resources, and the federal government seems to be no closer to providing a new facility for the FBI.”
Ken Ulman, the chief strategy officer for economic development for this university’s College Park Foundation, said he remains optimistic that the search for a new headquarters will resume — with Greenbelt in its sights.
“We’re disappointed that the FBI isn’t going to join us any time soon but it doesn’t dampen our energy,” he said, highlighting recent College Park area gains such as Whole Foods, MilkBoy ArtHouse and the upcoming Hotel at the University of Maryland.
It’s the FBI’s loss more so than this university’s, Ulman said.
“I think it’s the FBI and the federal government that are going to miss out on having an opportunity to be part of a really energized, exciting, multimodal, transportation-connected community with access to brilliant students,” he said.
Federal officials have spent more than 10 years narrowing down locations for the new building and lobbying Congress for funding, and President Obama sought $1.4 billion for the project, according to the Post.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, alongside Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown condemned the decision to halt the pursuit of a new headquarters, and called for an immediate restart.
“Canceling the current request for proposals for a fully consolidated FBI headquarters puts America’s national security at risk. The Hoover Building is crumbling around the FBI. It is unfathomable that the Trump Administration would fail to move forward,” the statement read.
University president Wallace Loh has also voiced support for an FBI headquarters in Greenbelt.
“Consider three things: location, location, location,” Loh said in September. “The FBI needs to be close in proximity to the large research university in the region.”
Both the FBI and the GSA, which handles federal real estate, do not currently have permanent leaders, which “officials and executives involved in the process” told the Post could’ve been a factor in dropping the search.
Former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired in May, was a large proponent for the new building, the Post reported.
The 42-year-old Hoover Building no longer facilitates the agency’s goals of preventing cyber crime and international threats, FBI officials argued in a 2015 tour of the building.
Maryland representatives have been behind this project from the beginning, fighting for Congressional budget support. When Congress slashed $200 million from the budget, Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown spoke out against the action.
“A new, fully consolidated FBI headquarters is important for the safety and security of our nation,” they said in a statement last month.
Senior staff writer Christine Condon contributed to this report.