ULI Washington News

The New Regional Economy – Shifting the Paradigm in a Post Stimulus World

Teaming Up for a Common Regional Goal
By Michael Polaski

Prominent industry leaders came together for a panel discussion entitled “The New Regional Economy – Shifting the Paradigm in a Post Stimulus World” at the annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Washington Real Estate Trends Conference held on April 10, 2013.  Moderator Robert McCartney of the Washington Post focused the discussion on the need for the public and private sectors to focus on creating a new regional economy and suggestions for how this could be attained.

The session kicked off with an interview with Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Commissioner of the Public Building Service for the General Services Administration (GSA). Robyn discussed how GSA can be a better partner with the private sector and make decisions that benefit the regional economy.  One example of how this could be accomplished is the GSA moving into underdeveloped areas of Metropolitan D.C. such as the Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms (ATF) Headquarters moving into NoMa, and the Department of Transportation move to Southeast Anacostia.

Robyn also stressed how competition will ultimately benefit the region as a whole.  The best example of this, which is also one of the hottest topics of discussion at the conference, is the competition for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Headquarters. The current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, is aging, doesn’t meet the agency’s security needs, and is not conducive to their desire for a more collaborative work environment. GSA is looking to trade this space for a new Headquarters in the National Capital Region, and the competition is fierce.  GSA received 30 responses to their Request for Information (RFI), and Robyn says it is taking several issues under consideration, including: the East-West commute (Prince George’s County), the cost of the land, underused land near metro stops, and FBI needs. The next step GSA will take is the issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Panelists Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Planning at WMATA, Tony Kinn Director at the Virginia Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships, and Peter Shapiro, Executive Director of Prince George’s County Revenue Authority, all discussed the current issues at hand that are effecting our regional economy. Kannan explained WMATA’s capacity issues at stops like Rosslyn, VA and the desire to better balance the regions transit demands.

Kinn talked about regional issues such as the HOT Lanes on the Beltway and I-95 and the value of public-private partnerships for funding some of these massive undertakings.  The next big issue he is looking to tackle is I-66 in Virginia.  He expects a RFI or RFP shortly to help I-66 move people more efficiently and improve quality of life by simplifying their daily commute.

After his plea to GSA to move the FBI Headquarters to Prince George’s County, Shapiro stressed the need for a regional plan, and more of an “us” and “we” mentality.  He believes Public-Private Partnership (P3) will play a key role in furthering our regional economy.

All the panelists emphasized the need for a bipartisan organization and local community input to drive focused talks on a regional view of improving our economy.  For more information on this topic, please consult ULI’s Regionalism Initiative Council brochure entitled Regional Leadership, Vision to Action.

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