Prince George's Hhs Bid

Federal Department's Lease In Montgomery Expires Next July

August 27, 2009|By Greg Gaudio | Greg Gaudio,The Washington Post

At least two developers are vying to lure the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from its outdated Rockville complex in Montgomery County to spacious new digs in Prince George's County.

Each firm is interested in building almost 1 million square feet of office space for HHS near a Metro stop in Prince George's County. If constructed, such a complex would relocate about 5,000 federal jobs to the county, fatten property tax coffers and serve as a major anchor near a transit station. One possible location would put it on the MARC and Amtrak lines.

"Of course it would have a huge impact on the county," said Patricia Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp. But the owner of the Parklawn Building in Rockville, HHS's current complex housing about 3,000 employees, would like to renovate that facility to keep the department there.

The General Services Administration, which oversees development for the executive branch, expects to select a developer for the project by the end of the year, said spokesman Michael McGill.

"This is a big lease," he said. "And both Montgomery and Prince George's counties are very eager to try to capture it."

McGill declined to say how many firms sent in bids.

When its lease expires July 31, 2010, HHS has the option of staying in the 18-story Parklawn, one of the largest privately owned buildings in the state, or moving to a new location.

The GSA has been accepting proposals for a 935,000-square-foot office building in suburban Maryland, which it would lease for HHS. The project's prospectus estimates that the lease would run for 15 years at $30 million a year.

The new space would combine HHS offices now at the Parklawn building with those in three other locations, two in Rockville and one in Silver Spring.

One developer, the Carl Williams Group, is proposing a 24-story building for 4 acres near the New Carrollton station, said John Lally, an attorney for the company. "I can't even tell you what this bid has cost to put together," he said. "It's massive."

Lally said New Carrollton is an ideal location because many modes of transportation converge there. The station is the eastern terminus of Metro's Orange Line and a stop for MARC and Amtrak trains and a variety of bus lines. Maryland also proposes to make the station the eastern terminus for a light-rail Purple Line between Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The proposed building would conform to new zoning standards aimed at making the area around New Carrollton a walkable community, Lally said.

Another developer, Peter Ng Schwartz Management, received approval from the Prince George's County Planning Board on June 11 for a mixed-use development on 8 acres near Metro's Largo Town Center Station, the end of the Blue Line. It awaits approval by the Prince George's County Council, which sits as the District Council for planning and zoning matters.

"The applicant proposes to develop the site with 989,560 square feet of commercial office space to be used by the Department of Health and Human Services," according to a draft resolution. The development, called One Largo Metro in planning documents, would also have a day-care center for employees' children and about 10,000 square feet of retail space.

Phone calls to the offices of Peter Ng Schwartz were not returned.

The company that owns the Parklawn Building, however, would like HHS to stay put, according to Ed Grau, senior property manager for Fishers Lane LLC.

Grau said the company has proposed renovating the 40-year-old building to entice HHS to stay. "We're very happy with them as a tenant," he said.

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