The battle over where to put the headquarters of the federal agency that runs Medicare came to a head yesterday, as the U.S. General Services Administration narrowed the field to one site in Woodlawn and one in Baltimore.
GSA's announcement formally knocks out three other sites in Baltimore County. County political leaders are campaigning fiercely to keep the headquarters of the U.S. Health Care ZTC Financing Administration in the suburbs, where HCFA has been based since the 1970s.
"Everyone knows of the [political] interest -- you can't help it if you read the paper," said Steven Peters, the GSA contracting officer who is leading the search for the administration's new home. "But we haven't gotten special instructions. . . . We're attempting to separate the procurement process from the outside interest this project has generated."
HCFA is based at the Social Security complex just inside the Baltimore Beltway in Woodlawn.
The new 800,000-square-foot-plus building is expected to be the biggest office project built in the area during the first half of the 1990s. The agency has 2,800 to 2,900 employees in the area and is expected to have 3,300 within five years.
GSA is expected to choose this summer between a site just north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and a 57-acre site at 7500 Security Blvd.,just west of the Beltway.
The Baltimore site is backed by the Rouse Co. of Columbia, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and the Henson Co. The Woodlawn site is backed by Boston Properties and Towson-based James F. Knott Development Co. Both development teams filed their final proposals Friday.
Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, has been leading county officials in lobbying the GSA to keep HCFA in the suburbs. Employee unions also want to stay in Woodlawn.