Photo by tape on Flickr.

Prince George’s County has several Metro stations that could accommodate a new FBI headquarters. But to get the FBI, Prince George’s County needs to pick a site quickly. The ideal site is the Morgan Boulevard Metro station.

In a prior post, I argued that the Morgan Boulevard station is an ideal site for a new regional hospital that the county, state, and the University of Maryland Medical System plan to build in the next few years.

The station is within a mile of the Capital Beltway and has 56 acres of undeveloped land next to it—enough room to build an urban, walkable hospital campus and a host of other TOD projects.

While the FBI campus’s security requirements and size would not make it a likely candidate for those 56 acres adjacent to the Metro station, another large area across Central Avenue (MD-214) would work perfectly.

Morgan Boulevard Metro. Image from Google Maps.

The yellow-shaded area, directly across Central Avenue from the station, is more than large enough to accommodate the FBI headquarters. The dark purple area, adjacent to the FBI, is ideal for the hospital, while mixed-use offices could occupy the lighter purple areas and mixed-use residential in the brown area. The county could create a pedestrian path with a Main Street character, lined with storefronts, from the station to Central Avenue where employees cross to get to the FBI.

Because it’s across a major arterial from the station, the restrictive security constructs would not pose a problem with developing quality mixed-use TOD at the Metro station. Yet, because it is within ½ mile of the Metro station, it would be easily accessible to the thousands of federal employees who would be working at the FBI. Moreover, many of those same employees would have to pass through the station’s core commercial area twice a day, thereby creating a natural patron base for any business located there.

Currently, the Morgan Boulevard Station’s secondary area is populated with scattered automobile-oriented industrial uses. However, the county could quickly assemble and redevelop that land into a large-acre parcel suitable for the FBI headquarters facility. The existing industrial uses can be easily relocated to one of the many other nearby industrial office parks with vacant space. If there’s one thing the county has plenty of (other than developable land around Metro stations), it’s vacant industrial space.

Prince George’s officials should make a compelling case to the GSA as to why a location like Morgan Boulevard would be a win-win for the federal government as well as the county and state governments, and specifically why it would be better than the GSA-owned property at Franconia-Springfield Metro Station in Fairfax County. Here are a few suggestions:

Morgan Boulevard is closer to DC. It is 9.5 miles from the DC core, while Franconia-Springfield is 15 miles from downtown. It is also inside the Beltway, while being equally as accessible via Metro’s Blue Line.

It is one of the least-utilized Metro stations. In fact, in 2007, Morgan Boulevard had the fewest weekday riders of any Metro station. Unlike the Franconia-Springfield Station, a busy transit terminus in already-overcrowded Fairfax County,  Morgan Boulevard could easily accommodate the influx of thousands of additional riders a day.

Ample roadway capacity already exists. Unlike the Beltway area around Franconia-Springfield, the roadways around Morgan Boulevard are able to accommodate the workers who would choose to drive to work. The same multiple paths that allow many thousands of fans to drive to FedEx Field for Redskins games would also accommodate the substantially fewer number of federal workers that would be driving to the new FBI headquarters during the work week. And the use of the same reversible lane technologies employed on game day should assist with traffic flow during the work week.

It would bring more parity to the region. From a policy standpoint, bringing the FBI headquarters to Morgan Boulevard would allow the federal government to better equalize the regional distribution of federal employment sites. Prince George’s supplies more than a quarter of the region’s federal workforce and is entitled to a fairer allocation of the job sites.

The area is comparatively less well-off economically. Unlike wealthy Fairfax County, the surrounding inner-Beltway community near this station is one that could more greatly benefit from urban revitalization, thus allowing the federal investment to accomplish multiple goals.

These are the type of specific, fact-based arguments and actions (among others) that will make a worthy case to the GSA for why it should bring the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County.

Make a specific site recommendation. Give specific justifications. Articulate a sensible TOD and neighborhood revitalization strategy. Provide quick, responsible, and decisive action by local officials.

Prince George’s County deserves to attract the FBI headquarters and other large federal government offices. If it wants to do so, though, it needs to step up its game dramatically.

Bradley Heard is an attorney and citizen activist who resides in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George’s County. A native of Virginia Beach and former longtime Atlanta resident, Brad hopes to encourage high-quality, walkable and bikeable development in the inner Beltway region of Prince George’s County.