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Initiative Will Better Align Agency’s Building, Leasing, and Relocation Plans with the Economic Development Goals of Local Communities

November 17, 2015

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Today, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) launched a nationwide Economic Catalyst Initiative to better align the agency’s building, leasing, and relocation plans with the economic development goals of local communities, while improving outcomes for the federal government and partner agencies and respecting local development processes. The three-city tour launch of the new initiative began in Detroit and then headed to Cambridge, Mass. where GSA chief Denise Turner Roth, former city manager and vice president of an economic development group, held a press conference with elected officials and stakeholders in Cambridge and nearby Chelsea to discuss the agency’s new strategic focus on economic development and local projects in the area that reflect it.

The Economic Catalyst Initiative is consistent with the Obama Administration’s efforts to support the economic vision of communities across the country. GSA will conclude the launch of the initiative in Charlotte, N.C. on Wednesday.

From GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth: “I know that GSA can be a powerful catalyst for economic development in communities across the country. By working together with state and local partners, GSA can find opportunities to support a community’s development goals while driving a better deal for taxpayers.”

From Cambridge Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson: “We hope that our collaborative efforts will provide an opportunity for the Kendall Square knowledge economy to flourish by allowing room for companies to grow and expand in the area, while contributing to continued transformation of the area to a diverse, mixed-use neighborhood. We see the Volpe block as an area of great opportunity – for creating new jobs, new housing, and new public open space in the heart of one of the most desirable areas in Cambridge.”

From Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino: “The GSA’s Economic Catalyst Initiative has been a resounding success in Chelsea. The new regional FBI headquarters in Chelsea has already become the flagship for our Urban Renewal District and a catalyst for significant nearby development, including hotels, restaurants and retail. By selecting Chelsea for this significant public investment, the GSA has helped to transform a formerly blighted area of the City into a thriving commercial district.”


Detroit: GSA has purchased a commercial building for $1 and, with Congressional support, plans to invest $70 million into the building, allowing the agency to bring an additional 700+ federal employees from around the city and surrounding areas to one federally owned location. In doing so, GSA will free up valuable commercial space in downtown Detroit for the private sector and others while saving money for its partner agencies.

Cambridge: GSA is working to exchange the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Volpe Center – currently sitting on a 14-acre underdeveloped federally owned site -- for construction services needed to build a new DOT research center. DOT has long needed a new research facility in Cambridge, but has not been able to get the necessary appropriations. This exchange will unlock the value of the land to meet DOT’s needs, dramatically reduce the agency’s footprint, and free up land in Kendall Square, one of the most valuable real estate markets in the country.

Chelsea: GSA has awarded a build-to-suit lease for an FBI field office in Chelsea, Mass., a few miles away from Cambridge, which has already been a catalyst for the development of hotels and residences. In addition to being a catalyst for economic development, the building will provide the FBI with more functional space in support of their critical mission.

Charlotte: GSA is working with the City of Charlotte to exchange a 3.2-acre federally owned site for the Jonas Federal Courthouse, a building that the federal government needs long-term. This exchange will be a catalyst for transit-related investments and other investments at the federal level due to the 3.2-acre site’s proximity to a future multi-modal transit station. Currently, Department of Transportation has provided $25 million to construct the multi-modal transit station. GSA’s exchange with the city coupled with DOT’s investment will be a catalyst for economic growth.

The purpose of the Economic Catalyst Initiative is to create these types of economic development opportunities in communities across the country.

As part of the Economic Catalyst Initiative, GSA has revised its location policy around five community-centered factors (i.e. transportation, broadband, sustainability, neighborhood connectivity, and use of existing resources), and embedded this new approach in the performance plans of its Public Buildings Service commissioners and real estate specialists. GSA has also identified a number of expiring leases and capital building projects as priorities due to their potential to impact economic growth. This change in the way the agency does business will improve outcomes for both local communities and the federal government.

While GSA’s old building, leasing, and relocation process only required minimal community engagement, the new process requires this type of engagement every step of the way, especially in the beginning of the process when GSA is working with a partner agency to determine its program of requirements. This includes working with local officials before the procurement process begins to evaluate the appropriateness of both delineated areas and Central Business Areas using the aforementioned criteria.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is an independent agency of the U.S. government whose mission is to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people. The agency’s Public Buildings Service is one of the largest and most diversified public real estate organizations in the world. Its portfolio consists of 376.9 million rentable square feet in 8,721 active assets across the United States, in all 50 states, 6 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

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