Federal officials said Thursday they hope to swap the J. Edgar Hoover Building for a new suburban FBI headquarters rather than pay cash for what's expected to be an expensive move.
The building is situated on a nearly 7-acre site along Pennsylvania Avenue, a prime location in the District, and area planners say whoever buys it can use it for office space, retail, housing and other public uses.
But renovating the building would cost more than $1 billion and take more than a decade to complete, officials said.
Harriet Tregoning, director of D.C.'s Office of Planning, suggested the building could be divided in two because it sits on two blocks. One half could be used for housing, she said, and the other for offices or retail shops.
"No real estate is more distinctive in our city than what is on Pennsylvania Avenue," Tregoning said.
The General Services Administration, the federal government's real estate manager, publicly met with developers and local officials for the first time Thursday. And Bill Dowd, acting commissioner of the GSA's Public Building Service, said a swap for the Hoover building was anticipated but not mandatory.
As it stands, the agency is accepting ideas only on how to make a deal work, not proposals to buy the building.
Communities in Northern Virginia and Maryland are already competing to become the new home of the FBI and the 12,000 jobs that come with it. The GSA is expected to begin accepting offers this summer.
Officials from both states plan to submit applications. But guidelines for the facility outlined by the Senate -- the site must be within two miles of a Metro station, within 2.5 miles of the Beltway and at least 55 acres -- have made sites in Fairfax and Prince George's counties early favorites.
The GSA and the House still must release the final requirements for the headquarters, however, and only then will administrators begin discussions about individual sites, officials said.
"We're trying to be as encouraging of as many responses as possible," said Mack Gaither, the GSA's project manager for the FBI's consolidation. "Obviously, some will not fit, but we'll figure that out [later]."