WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 21, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today championed the use of public-private partnerships to redevelop underutilized federal real estate and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, Barletta has already worked in a bipartisan manner with ranking member Rep. André Carson (D-IN) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), to identify nearly $500 million in savings to taxpayers by addressing underused office space.
During the hearing, Barletta related that he had toured a similar site, known as Southeast Federal Center, which is already being hailed as a public-private partnership success story.
“As a former mayor, it almost made me want to be mayor again,” Barletta said. “Seeing the excitement of taking a very challenging project because of environmental concerns there and turning it into a real tax base again. And there’s no question that projects such as this could take the more difficult pieces of real estate and turn them into an economic advantage, where the local community is a winner, and with increased tax revenue, the taxpayer is also a winner, and the federal agencies as well.”
One building in another location, the Cotton Annex at Federal Triangle South, has approximately 89,000 square feet of space and has sat vacant for six years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the sale value of the Cotton Annex alone with its surrounding vacant land is $150 million. The Government Services Administration (GSA) has requested input from the private sector regarding the development of the property that will stimulate a vibrant mix of uses, such as residential, commercial, civic, institutional and public sector.
“There are key challenges that we face today with managing the federal real property inventory. One challenge is to get federal agencies to think differently about the space they use,” Barletta said. “While the private sector understands that space is money and so has moved towards smaller, more efficient space solutions, the federal government has been slow to adopt this philosophy.”
In July, Barletta introduced the Public Buildings Savings and Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 2612), which addresses a number of key issues identified through Committee investigations, Government Accountability Office studies and Inspector General Reports. The bill establishes limitations on and better oversight of space acquisitions. It also freezes GSA’s current physical footprint, limits the size of courthouses and requires reports on all leases signed in a given year. The bill also limits and provides greater oversight of agencies with independent leasing authorities, and increases transparency and ensures there is good data on which decisions can be made. H.R. 2612 has passed the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a voice vote.
“Unfortunately, there are underutilized and vacant federal properties across our Nation,” Barletta said. “There are not only direct costs to the taxpayer in maintaining and operating them, but they also impact the communities in which they sit – often limiting private investment and development of prime real estate.”