What a news week for Greenbelt – the election, and now the announcement late Thursday that Greenbelt has been selected as the site of the new FBI headquarters! It’s SUCH a big story for Greenbelt – the announcement and everything to follow – that Greenbelt Online is reporting it, with a focus on coverage by the media. We begin with the announcement, the first post in our new “FBI” category.
(Coverage by the Greenbelt News Review will be added here as soon as it’s published.)
We’ve also created a resource page (Greenbelt’s FBI Story) with embedded videos, links to news stories and more – as a summary for Greenbelters and anyone else interested, including the media especially. Its focus is Greenbelt’s own perspective on this game-changing development, and it’ll grow with stories of local reactions and impacts, and major regional or national news on the subject..
GSA made this announcement on Thursday, November 8, 2023.
The Washington Post (gifted link) seems to have broken the story of the announcement at 5:33 on November 8. A quote:
The headquarters complex would be built on an empty 61-acre plot outside the Greenbelt Metro station — the marquee tenant in a proposed mixed-use development site that would include apartments, a hotel and retail and could bring billions of dollars of new tax revenue to the county.
WaPo Readers Respond
Commenters on that Washington post story (almost 1,000 as of Nov 11) include a few mentions of Greenbelt by name:
- Many support the selection of Greenbelt based on objective grounds.
- I saw several positive mentions of Greenbelt and the county, like this one: “The new location in Greenbelt is very close to the Agricultural Research Center. I’ve driven through there. Beautiful land as attested by the weekend bicycle riders.”
- Several commenters call our county “crime-ridden.”
- In jest, there are suggestions for the building’s name: “The agency should pick a tough-guy name for the location of the new HQ. ‘Greenbelt’ is too soft and fuzzy, and indeed the city was originally built as a some kind of socialist experiment. I like ‘Cop City,’ but Atlanta already took that.”
- There’s confusion about the site: “Am I missing something? Seems like the Post’s poor writing and editing is beginning to impede comprehension. What does ‘outside’ mean in this sentence? it is near the Greenbelt Metro or not?” (The FBI building will be outside the Metro Station, on what is now a huge parking lot. See images of the site at the bottom of this post.)
- As to whether FBI employees will live in Greenbelt: “That’s assuming they are willing to live in PG. Most professionals don’t.” To which someone responds “I live in University Park, near College Park and Greenbelt. Many professionals live here. It’s a great area and is booming.” and another response: “You simply don’t understand what this is. These are not FBI Field Agents. They are mostly support staff. The FBI continues to have the requisite number of agents in the cities where they are needed’ ” and “NASA Goddard has done just fine in Greenbelt
I stopped reading after the first couple of hundred comments.
FBI Director Wray was quick to “slam the process.” (story at Maryland Matters) and national media also carried the story (e.g., the New York Times.) Reportedly, Wray wanted the headquarters to stay in D.C.
Maryland Office-Holders Respond and Celebrate
The press release sent by the Governor’s office details the criteria:
- Greenbelt is the most transit accessible site, due to its 0.1 mile walking distance to Metro and commuter rail;
- Greenbelt provides for a consistent and predictable construction schedule as the site is owned by a public entity and offers a clear public process and timeline to achieve site control; [due to the existing buildings on the Springfield site, versus the shovel-ready empty site in Greenbelt, a difference that’s estimated to result in a 1.5 to 2-year faster route to completion]
- Greenbelt offers the best opportunity for the government’s investment to positively impact region through sustainable and equitable development;
- Greenbelt provides the lowest overall cost to taxpayers. [An estimated $1-1.5 billion savings over the Springfield site.]
That afternoon there was a celebratory press conference in the Greenbelt City Council Chambers. among the MANY office-holders in attendance were, from left: Md Attorney General Anthony Brown; Congressman Glenn Ivey; Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan, Md. Lt. Gov Aruna Miller, [unidentified], Md. Governor Wes Moore, [unidentified], Congressman Steny Hoyer (who represented Greenbelt from 1981 until the 2022 redistricting); Md. Comptroller Brooke Lierman; U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen; and Prince George’s County Executive (and candidate to replace Cardin in the Senate) Angela Alsobrooks.
Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan’s statement can be found on page 7 of the following issue of the Greenbelt News Review.
The Washington Post covered the press conference in “Maryland Democrats rebuke FBI head, dismiss Va. concerns over Greenbelt site” (gifted link) that included these details:
- “It is absolutely wrong of Director Chris Wray to impugn and question the character, the integrity and the independence of the site selection administrator,” Van Hollen said.
“Hoyer recalled that someone from Virginia, whom he would not name, came up to him Thursday and told him, ‘You know, this was an unfair competition.’ He said, ‘Yeah, you had Moore. We had Youngkin,’ Hoyer said, chuckling to the rousing applause.” This sentiment is mirrored in comments by Virginians that I’ve noted on social media that are critical of Youngkin’s efforts – or lack thereof – to bring the headquarters to his state.
More Local News Coverage
Channel 4 filmed in Roosevelt Center.
The University of Maryland’s student paper the Diamondback anticipates collaborations between the FBI and its cyber security and law enforcement programs, including possible internships..
The Washington Post’s announcement of the selection was quickly posted to the Greenbelters Facebook group and within two days had prompted 83 comments, including:
- Celebratory posts like “Holy high-quality, local jobs, Batman!”
- A few expressions of fear about increased traffic, plus “Pollution. More crap like Royal Farms. People. Lots of people. Loss of trees. They paved paradise and put up an FBI building.”
- A few mistakenly assuming the FBI would be sited in Greenbelt’s beloved Forest Preserve. (Scroll down to see the site outside the Greenbelt Metro Station.)
“The GSA estimated that the timeline for closing on the Greenbelt property would be nine months and projected a gap of nearly three years between the closing date and the start of construction, according to the site selection decision. With so many requirements to fulfill, [the GSA] projected that it could take slightly more than three years for construction to begin for the building he sees having ‘generational change’ attached to it.” (Source.)
Greenbelt Metro Station (via Google maps). shows the large parking area where the FBI headquarters will be built.
Entrance to the Metro station from the current parking lot.Typical view of the Greenbelt Metro parking lot mid-day on a November Saturday. On weekends it’s about half full, as ridership has not returned to pre-covid levels. Just some of the 61 acres of land that will be put to better use.