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FBI building site recommendations, revealed

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The National Capital Planning Commission released their approved draft square guidelines for Squares 378 and 379

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Aude

The J. Edgar Hoover building will one day meet the wrecking ball, but not until all recommendations and guidelines are squared away by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). This Thursday, the NCPC released their draft square guidelines for the redevelopment of the site, which currently houses the FBI headquarters.

The 6.6-acre site, which houses Squares 378 and 379, has the opportunity to house over 2 million square feet of mixed-use development, making it one of the largest development projects in the city. Originally, the building was supposed to be lined with ground-floor retail. However, that was never implemented, so there are wide areas of pavement.

In the guidelines released, the NCPC proposed a 57-foot-wide public space area along Pennsylvania Avenue NW. On building heights, the northern square, 378, could reach 160 feet, while the southern square, 379, could go up to 135 feet.

The Commission also favored re-establishing D Street NW. If this occurs, the original blocks will be reestablished, vehicular and pedestrian conflicts will be minimized, and the signalized intersection will be utilized.

According to a press release, the General Services Administration (GSA) is still in the process of selecting an "exchange partner" to construct a new facility for the FBI headquarters.

At the NCPC meeting on Thursday, there was a wide range of public comments spoken.

Aaron Hassinger, GSA representative and project executive of the FBI consolidation project, said that the GSA still believes there are unresolved issues in the NCPC’s draft guidelines. They include: the Pennsylvania Avenue NW build-to line for Square 379, the width of D Street NW and its function, and the initial heights on both squares. Hassinger further described the restoration of D Street NW to its historic configuration as "arbitrary."

For Dominick Cardella, business owner and D.C. resident, he asked that the FBI site not be developed with an office building. "We do not need another office building on this square, nor do we need a building that has a short setback from the street," he said. Cardella further recommended the NCPC keep D Street NW closed as, according to him, it would not improve traffic flow.

Cardella further asked the NCPC to consider developing a museum on the site, entitled, "A Nation of Immigrants," that would focus on the contributions that immigrants have made to the U.S.

Another public commenter, Jo-Ann Neuhaus, the executive director at Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association, asked for the NCPC to require the site to be redeveloped with a mixed-use development.

Nancy Somerville, CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects, urged the NCPC to maintain the existing building set-back from Pennsylvania Avenue NW and protect the three rows of trees.

The final public commenter who spoke at this Thursday’s NCPC meeting was Serge Demerjian, Vice President of Development at the Federal City Development Partners. He argued that restoring D Street NW would not benefit traffic patterns or circulation. He did say, though, that it would be beneficial for D Street NW to be restored as a pedestrian easement.

On the build-to line for Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Demerjian recommended it be no more than 25 to 35 feet from the curb along Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Demerjian’s final recommendation was for the height of Squares 378 and 379 be a maximum of 160 feet.

With the draft guidelines announced, this authorizes the release of a 30-day public comment period through November 10. On December 1, the NCPC will evaluate these comments and make their final review of the site.

[UPDATE 10/12: A previous version of this article cited Squares 378 and 379 as being 7.6 acres with the potential for approximately 1.9 million square feet of mixed-use development. The article has been corrected to say that the site is actually 6.6 acres with the potential for over 2 million square feet of mixed-use development.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

J. Edgar Hoover Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20535, USA