The fenced-in Suitland Federal Center in Prince George’s County, a hodgepodge of outdated buildings, parking lots and rolling lawns, is finally undergoing a makeover. It was created in 1941 from wooded farmland to supplement government office space within the District. In the 1950s and ‘60s, a records center for the National Archives and a heating and refrigeration plant joined a trio of brick buildings on the property. A big, windowless building for the National Maritime Intelligence Center was completed in the early 1990s.
The new headquarters of the U.S. Census Bureau and operations center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration represent only a few of the changes now taking place inside the precinct north of Suitland Parkway. Over the next decade, the northern edge of the 226-acre tract will be transformed with new buildings, parks, tree-lined boulevards and pedestrian paths to create a more coherent campus for federal workers. A publicly accessible “village green” outside its gates will be created at the corner of Silver Hill and Suitland roads in 2011.
The overhaul follows a master plan created in 2002 by a design team led by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the architects responsible for the Census Bureau headquarters. Currently, three of the federal center’s oldest buildings, originally constructed in the 1940s for the Census Bureau and Naval Intelligence Command, are being razed to make way for future development. Suitland House, a 1937 Colonial Revival-style dwelling used by the Census Bureau for office space, will be preserved at the wooded edge of that agency’s new headquarters.
— Deborah K. Dietsch
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