The U.S. General Services Administration has appointed Nina M. Albert, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s former top real estate official, as commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service, a key federal construction agency.

PBS is responsible for the design and construction of courthouses, land ports of entry—major border stations—and other federal buildings. It also has an extensive program of buildings renovations.

Gaining funding from Congress for those programs will be among the challenges Albert will face in her new post.

The Biden administration is requesting $417 million in fiscal year 2022 for Public Buildings Service facilities construction and acquisition, and $1.7 billion for repairs and alterations.

In all, PBS owns, rents and maintains more than 370 million sq ft of space in some 9,600 buildings.

Albert, whose appointment was announced on July 6, has spent 20 years in real estate, economic revitalization and sustainable development, GSA said.

That includes five years at the transit agency, known as Metro, where she most recently was vice president for real estate and parking.

Jordan Howard, the Associated General Contractors of America's director for federal and heavy construction, says, "Looking at her background, I think she's well-suited to lead PBS."

Howard said in an interview, "PBS is going to have to adapt to the changing expectations of their federal customers, while also moving to address the backlog of projects."

Those expectations are likely to have shifted as a result of the pandemic, in terms of how telework trends will affect overall future occupancy rates.

And as PBS tackles its backlog, Howard notes, it will have to factor in the rise in construction costs. "There's enormous spikes in construction materials costs, sort of across the board," he says.

At Washington Metro

Paul J. Wiedefeld, Metro general manager and chief executive officer, in a memo to the authority’s staff announcing Albert’s departure, praised  her “extraordinary accomplishments.” For example, he noted that she led a plan to consolidate 10 office buildings to four, resulting in an improved work environment and saving Metro $120 million over 20 years.

In the memo, dated June 28, Wiedefeld also pointed to Albert’s work in increasing transit-oriented development, including Amazon’s $125-million commitment, announced June 16,  for affordable housing at Metro stations.

A Metro spokesperson also said Albert—working with Wiedefeld, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Anosike and the board—led the authority’s plan to lease Metro’s aging downtown D.C., headquarters to a developer team.

In exchange for annual ground-lease payments to Metro, the companies will replace the existing building with a new mixed-use development on what is a prime downtown site.

Earlier in her career, Albert was a project manager in the office of the Washington, D.C., deputy mayor for planning and economic development, where she oversaw the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a  multifaceted revitalization of part of Southwest D.C.

Before that, Albert served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tufts University and master’s degrees in business and in urban planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Albert’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Story updated on 7/7/2021 with comments from Associated General Contractors of America.