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Officials begin planning relocation to D.C. city hall

(Published November 15, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

The D.C. government will get to move into the John A. Wilson Building, the District’s city hall, in time for the city’s bicentennial under an agreement reached with the federal government Nov. 10.

Jubilant elected officials made the announcement that the General Services Administration, which handles all leased property for the federal government, had agreed not to move a federal agency into the Wilson Building. The building had been renovated under a scheme that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to occupy most of the building and the D.C. government would get only about a third of the space.

City officials agreed to assume the $6.5 million 20-year lease from GSA, part of an agreement with local developer T. Conrad Monts that led to city hall’s first major renovation. The deal will cost the city at least $130 million unless officials find another source of revenue to cover the costs. Sources said no one was sure yet of the exact amount the D.C. government would be paying over the life of the lease, but that costs could rise if the city has to pay some additional costs for delaying the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned move.

On Nov. 8, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton presented a proposal to GSA and D.C. officials that involved moving the city government out of its current home at One Judiciary Square and totally occupying the Wilson Building. The District would then lease its temporary quarters to the feds, which would pay for the renovations.

A spokesman for Norton said GSA has agreed to consider the city’s offer. He said GSA and the EPA are "keeping all their options open" and looking at alternatives to Norton’s plan.

Mayoral spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong said the mayor’s office is now scrambling to come up with a plan to move out of current offices. Originally, the D.C. government was only going to get part of city hall, and the mayor has suggested that he would keep his offices and administration at One Judiciary Square and set up a "ceremonial" office at the Wilson Building. Now, Armstrong said, the plan is to move the mayor’s office and as much of his administration as possible into the smaller Wilson Building with the city council. She said some of the agencies would have to be moved into other buildings and the administration is working "very quickly" to decide which agencies will go where.

Reggie Sanders, spokesman for council Chairman Linda Cropp, said the council is looking at the second half of 2000 as a target date for moving into city hall. He said the delay is due, in part, to some of the renovations to the building that were aimed at keeping the city and federal offices separated -- modifications that will have to be reversed.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator