The Federal Bureau of Investigation has picked a 61-acre site in Greenbelt, Md., for its new headquarters campus, ending a protracted and often controversial search process for what is likely to be a multi-billion-dollar construction program.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which manages U.S. government real estate, announced the choice Nov. 8 over two competing sites in Maryland and Virginia to relocate the J. Edgar Hoover Building, now in downtown Washington, D.C.  

The new location offered “the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule," said GSA. "It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity.”

Congress must also approve funding for the project, with its development cost not disclosed.

The location, adjacent to the Greenbelt Metrorail station and owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is reportedly envisioned as a mixed-use development that would also include residential, hospitality and retail elements. The new building would consolidate about 2,500 employees now based in the nearly half-century old headquarters site, along with several thousand others working at other area locations. 

A GSA spokesperson says the agency will now begin the site acquisition process and development of a comprehensive project prospectus for submission to Congress. Efforts are also underway to identify a downtown Washington location for about 750 to 1,000 FBI employees.

“This downtown location will allow for continued FBI accessibility to the US Dept. of Justice and other key partners,” the spokesperson added, as well as move the FBI out of the Hoover Building, which “is at the end of its useful life.”

Competition and Controversy

Beginning in 2009, GSA’s search for a suitable location to build a new FBI headquarters sparked intense competition and debate among local, state and federal leaders. The agency considered dozens of sites in metropolitan Washington, narrowing the contenders in 2014 to three suburban locations—Greenbelt and Landover, Md., and Springfield, Va. GSA said at the time that the locations “met the baseline requirements of the FBI, including being able to accommodate the size of a new headquarters facility and meet the federal government’s unique security requirements, among other items.”

Three years later, however, the search process was suspended citing, with GSA citing insufficient funding from Congress. FBI leadership at the time had also expressed a preference to keep the agency in downtown Washington.

Then-President Donald Trump also inserted himself in the process, proposing building a smaller headquarters facility on the Hoover Building site and dispersing FBI operations to other states. 

Despite allegations that Trump was also trying to prevent potential redevelopment of that site site into a hotel that would compete with one he owned nearby, the U.S. Dept. of Justice subsequently found “no evidence that the FBI’s decision to seek to have its Headquarters remain in its current location was based on improper considerations or motives.”

Restarted in 2018, the search process picked up steam in the Biden Administration, with GSA evaluating core factors such as cost, transportation access and proximity to other law enforcement buildings. In July, the agency announced that it had updated the search criteria to make cost a higher priority “to deliver better value for taxpayers,” and reflect the Administration’s commitment to sustainability and equity.

That decision was heavily criticized by Virginia lawmakers, who had touted the Springfield site’s closer proximity to the FBI’s law enforcement training and research center in Quantico, Va. 

Greenbelt, however, was the only site under consideration that is adjacent to an existing Metrorail station.