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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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How would new FBI HQ affect Stafford CRE market?

It’s one of the area’s worst-kept secrets: the FBI occupies a significant amount of office and industrial space in Stafford County.

The agency quietly leases eight properties totaling about 350,000 square feet in Stafford. The FBI has stated it wants to consolidate some of its many offices around the Washington area into a new headquarters building, so it’s possible that could include some of the Stafford space.

Fredericksburg-area commercial real estate brokers don’t seem too concerned about the effect that could have on the local market. They believe FBI support contractors could potentially backfill any space that the agency vacates, particularly if the FBI decides to locate along Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia.

It’s anyone’s guess where the FBI will ultimately decide to move its headquarters. Its base is now the deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. The agency wants a new headquarters that could include about 2.1 million square feet of office space and hold about 11,000 workers.

About 35 localities and developers recently submitted information to the General Services Administration, which handles federal leasing, expressing their interest in hosting the FBI headquarters. Caroline, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties, along with localities throughout the closer Washington suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, all responded to the GSA request for information.

The GSA is expected to at some point, perhaps later this year, request more detailed proposals for the headquarters.

The GSA has said the new site should be no more than two miles from a Metro station or 2.5 miles from the Beltway, but even that is unclear. Virginia Congressmen have advocated waiving that requirement so the GSA can take advantage of the lower development costs outside the Washington area. That could potentially bring the headquarters closer to the Fredericksburg region.

Some of the office-type FBI jobs in Stafford could potentially be relocated to the new headquarters, said David Newman, a vice president for the Silver Cos. who is overseeing leasing efforts at the Quantico Corporate Center off U.S. 1 in North Stafford. But he said the FBI also uses much of its local space for training activities, and it’s less likely those functions would be moved.

Newman also pointed out that the relocation could still be years away.

Stafford’s economy could likely absorb the vacated space over time, said Economic Development Director Tim Baroody. He pointed out that the FBI leases expire between 2016 and 2026, so there is time for brokers to attract new tenants should some of the local FBI agents move to a new headquarters.

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