- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

The largest tract of vacant federal land in the District of Columbia, the Southeast Federal Center, may now be developed privately under legislation passed by Congress.

The bill gives the federal government the authority to partner with private builders to develop the center, a 55-acre parcel along the Anacostia River in Southeast.

The House passed the bill Tuesday, following approval in the Senate on Oct. 11. President Clinton is expected to sign it.

The Southeast Federal Center is a federal office compound that has sat vacant for 30 years. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the government's real-estate arm, has had trouble attracting federal agencies to the property.

The legislation, which was introduced one year ago, allows GSA to solicit proposals from private developers. Sources who helped craft the legislation said it probably will take the agency at least two years to finalize a development plan for the site.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, said on the House floor Tuesday "the magnitude of the waste in not developing these 55 acres for decades is incalculable."

Mrs. Norton, a chief sponsor of the bill, plans to hold a press conference this afternoon to discuss the legislation.

Lawmakers previously agreed to spend $30 million to clean up the site, one of 11 environmentally contaminated sites, or "brownfields," in the city.

"The land … had produced slums in everything it touched surrounding it, it is so huge," Mrs. Norton said.

D.C. planning chief Andrew Altman said the approval of the legislation is a "huge step forward" in Mayor Anthony A. Williams' plans to revitalize the Anacostia waterfront.

The Southeast Federal Center is framed by Isaac Hull Avenue SE on the east, First Street SE on the west, M Street SE on the north and the Anacostia River on the south.

The property is next to the Washington Navy Yard, where the U.S. Navy is moving about 4,200 jobs from Crystal City in Arlington, Va. Naval contractors are expected to move another 5,000 jobs to the neighborhood.

The new development has transformed Southeast into a burgeoning office market, but GSA has continued to report problems attracting federal tenants to the Southeast Federal Center.

Mr. Altman said private developers are "hungry" for the property. He would not speculate on its potential worth.

In the last year, some of the largest lease deals in the District have been for space in Southeast.

D.C.-based Spaulding & Slye Colliers is building a 268,000-square-foot office building on M Street SE, and Arlington-based Lincoln Property Co. is planning a 900,000-square-foot office-and-hotel complex on a 12-acre site in Southeast.

"Redeveloping the Southeast Federal Center will absolutely be another boon for the area," said E. Randall Lennon, managing director for Insignia/ESG, a brokerage in the District.

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