Westphalia Town Center developer continues push for FBI headquarters -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected on Sept. 12, 2013. An explanation of the correction is after the story.

The Walton Group updated Prince George’s officials on its $2 billion Westphalia Town Center project in Upper Marlboro, specifically its plans to lure the FBI and its 11,000 jobs to the site.

Walton Group CEO Bill Doherty spoke Sept. 11 at the Greater Prince George’s County Business Roundtable in Bowie on the importance of bringing in the FBI, which seeks to relocate from its current Washington, D.C. headquarters.

The U.S. General Services Administration has been soliciting proposals from developers in Maryland, Virginia and the District for the construction of a replacement for the FBI’s current headquarters. Doherty hopes a proposed 4.5-mile bus rapid transit route will bolster its chances at snagging the FBI headquarters. Passengers would depart from the Branch Avenue Metro station with a stop at Westphalia and Joint Base Andrews.

The transportation solution, proposed by the Alberta, Canada-based developer, seeks to address a weakness the center could have regarding public transportation for FBI employees and other commuters, Doherty said.

“At the end of the day something is needed,” Doherty said. “There will be 15,000 jobs at Westphalia and about 11,000 jobs at Joint Base Andrews and there is no service.”

Company representatives have been in contact with the Maryland Department of Transportation, but the route is still conceptual and more information isn’t available at this time, Doherty said.

“The new headquarters should be located in Prince George’s County,” Doherty said. “It is based on both merit and equity.”

Doherty’s plans puts Walton in direct competition with the Greenbelt Metro Station location that has been backed heavily by county officials. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has offered about 78 acres around the station as a potential location for the FBI. Westphalia would offer 50 acres, according to a Walton Group fact sheet.

Doherty said Walton would stay in communication with the county, with the ultimate goal of the FBI building its headquarters in either location.

“We should allow the client to decide,” Doherty said. “We want the FBI to come to Prince George’s County and we have two very good sites.”

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who attended the meeting, said the county will continue to back the Greenbelt location.

“The county found the site that will have the best opportunity to win and took a chance,” Baker said. “It’s the way we approach economic development.”

If the FBI does decide to makes its home at the town center, it could potentially expedite the center’s construction, allowing commercial businesses to move in faster since the FBI’s estimated 11,000 employees would be at Westphalia, said Rick Abbruzzese, a Walton spokesman.

The entire build of Westphalia is going to take about 10 to 12 years, but the headquarters could expedite that, though there are no solid numbers on how much faster, Abbruzzese said.

Either way, if Westphalia Town Center gets the FBI headquarters or not, development will continue and Walton will continue to invest in Prince George’s County, Doherty said.

“When Walton makes a move to make an investment, we look at it from a generational point of view,” Doherty said. “It is going to be there long after everyone in this room is gone.”

Correction explanation: The Walton Group has not contacted all transit groups regarding the potential bus route.