The U.S. General Services Administration, “the nation’s landlord,” is the largest owner of civilian properties in the world, with 9,600 buildings and 354 million square feet of space. The agency has been nursing a black eye for the last year, ever since it was revealed that GSA staff had spent $823,000 on an over-the-top training party in Las Vegas. The scandal forced the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson.
Over the past 15 months, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini has done a creditable job of restoring the agency’s standing with Congress and the public. President Obama has pledged to nominate him to the permanent post.
SEALING THE DEAL WITH THE DONALD
The GSA story that’s been getting all the headlines has to do with Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka winning the rights to the 114-year-old Old Post Office in the District of Columbia.
They plan to turn it into a 260-room grand hotel, with conference facilities, restaurants, and a spa. Work should get under way next year. About 370 federal employees will be relocated, but the public will still have access to the famous clock tower, which will be managed by the National Park Service.
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TOP GOVERNMENT ARCHITECTURE FIRMS2012 Total Government Revenue ($)1 Stantec $159,464,7942 HOK $128,492,0003 HDR Architecture $118,587,6424 IBI Group $90,772,7915 Heery International $83,833,1666 SmithGroupJJR $66,316,0007 Perkins+Will $56,535,6438 EYP $50,800,0009 HNTB Archtecture $46,172,03910 PageSoutherlandPage $41,854,020
TOP GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING FIRMS2012 Total Government Revenue ($)1 Fluor $3,301,919,0002 URS Corp. $693,536,1053 AECOM Technology Corp. $522,390,0004 Jacobs Engineering Group $422,670,0005 STV $196,225,0006 Michael Baker Jr. $109,360,0007 Science Applications International Corp. $66,429,5388 Parsons Brinckerhoff $56,438,7399 Merrick & Co. $54,500,00010 H&A Architects & Engineers $40,736,471
TOP GOVERNMENT CONSTRUCTION FIRMS2012 Total Government Revenue ($)1 Clark Group $2,490,446,1902 Turner Corporation, The $2,263,528,0003 PCL Construction Enterprises $1,990,709,5824 Hensel Phelps $1,261,539,7765 Balfour Beatty $1,253,718,3316 Walsh Group, The $1,080,133,0387 Gilbane $917,333,0008 McCarthy Holdings $662,000,0009 Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., The $559,879,59310 JE Dunn Construction $543,694,613
TOP FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ARCHITECTURE FIRMS2012 Federal Government Revenue ($)1 HOK $63,235,0002 SmithGroupJJR $40,600,0003 PageSoutherlandPage $39,650,0004 Heery International $36,256,3545 IBI Group $31,575,7286 EYP $29,000,0007 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill $24,731,0008 Stantec $22,500,2119 Leo A Daly $18,500,43910 Perkins+Will $15,589,734
TOP FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING FIRMS2012 Federal Government Revenue ($)1 Fluor $1,238,675,0002 URS Corp. $243,003,4863 AECOM Technology Corp. $109,000,0004 Parsons Brinckerhoff $42,703,5225 H&A Architects & Engineers $37,417,0666 Merrick & Co. $30,000,0007 Michael Baker Jr. $14,460,0008 Affiliated Engineers $9,058,0009 Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers $5,494,45810 Dewberry $5,377,009
TOP FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONSTRUCTION FIRMS2012 Federal Government Revenue ($)1 Clark Group $399,007,3962 PCL Construction Enterprises $298,606,4373 Hensel Phelps $285,134,9844 Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., The $233,168,5585 Gilbane $188,656,0006 Walsh Group, The $174,977,5807 Balfour Beatty $163,198,9098 Turner Corporation, The $162,590,0009 Mortenson Construction $134,476,00010 James G Davis Construction $130,000,000
TOP STATE GOVERNMENT ARCHITECTURE FIRMS2012 State Government Revenue ($)1 Stantec $65,067,6912 Perkins+Will $27,947,9503 HNTB Archtecture $19,760,6064 IBI Group $19,527,1175 DLR Group $16,500,0006 HDR Architecture $13,834,3307 Reynolds, Smith and Hills $10,900,0008 HOK $9,874,0009 NBBJ $6,464,00010 SmithGroupJJR $5,700,000
TOP STATE GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING FIRMS2012 State Government Revenue ($)1 Jacobs Engineering Group $422,670,0002 AECOM Technology Corp. $107,390,0003 URS Corp. $39,573,3234 Michael Baker Jr. $14,510,0005 Simpson Gumpertz & Heger $8,900,0006 Arup $8,586,3687 Dewberry $7,169,3468 STV $6,920,0009 Coffman Engineers $3,966,00010 Science Applications International Corp. $3,652,796
TOP STATE GOVERNMENT CONSTRUCTION FIRMS2012 State Government Revenue ($)1 PCL Construction Enterprises $1,154,611,5582 Clark Group $762,324,9273 Turner Corporation, The $639,844,0004 DPR Construction $277,866,2615 Skanska USA $218,424,5896 McCarthy Holdings $199,000,0007 Gilbane $168,482,0008 Hensel Phelps $154,763,7939 Tutor Perini Corporation $114,117,66210 Balfour Beatty $83,388,173
TOP LOCAL GOVERNMENT ARCHITECTURE FIRMS2012 Local Government Revenue ($)1 Stantec $71,896,8922 HOK $49,140,0003 IBI Group $37,523,4934 Heery International $23,648,2015 PGAL $19,500,0006 Perkins+Will $12,997,9597 EYP $11,000,0008 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill $10,903,0009 Reynolds, Smith and Hills $10,900,00010 ZGF Architects $10,014,686
TOP LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENGINEERING FIRMS2012 Local Government Revenue ($)1 STV $170,285,0002 URS Corp. $58,897,1103 AECOM Technology Corp. $50,000,0004 Arup $18,981,2805 Smith Seckman Reid $16,715,3816 Science Applications International Corp. $15,801,8047 Dewberry $9,114,8698 Simpson Gumpertz & Heger $8,400,0009 Syska Hennessy Group $8,141,14910 Walker Parking Consultants $7,700,0002012 Local Government Revenue ($)
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TOP LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONSTRUCTION FIRMS2012 Local Government Revenue ($)1 Turner Corporation, The $1,226,581,0002 Clark Group $548,902,0703 PCL Construction Enterprises $517,584,4914 Walsh Group, The $450,441,1055 Manhattan Construction $243,963,0006 Hunt Construction Group $196,000,0007 Gilbane $191,794,0008 McCarthy Holdings $176,000,0009 Balfour Beatty $171,637,64110 Skanska USA $157,244,0002012 Local Government Revenue ($)
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The Trumps will lease the 315,000-sf structure for 60 years, at $3 million a year. The deal has garnered mostly positive response from historic preservationists, who took a collective deep breath in relief that the venerable building would not be razed. It costs the GSA $6 million a year to maintain it, even though only 70% of the space is being used, so it looks like a win-win-win for the Trumps, the GSA, and taxpayers.
But the Old Post Office is hardly the only “excess property” in the GSA’s portfolio of 1,500 owned buildings. In the past five years, the agency has disposed of more than 750 surplus units, including 114 in fiscal 2012. Last December, the GSA asked for ideas on how to redevelop another three million square feet of government office space in the Federal Triangle. Navy Yard Annex Building 213 near Nationals Park in Southeast Washington, once a top-secret CIA facility—its spies took the famous photographs verifying the presence of missiles on Russian ships steaming toward Cuba during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—has been turned over to Forest City Enterprises. Next to be mothballed: the 2.4 million-sf J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in downtown Washington.
Tangherlini says he wants to downsize federal workspaces—the GSA per-employee average is 86 sf, much less than that for most other federal workers—while making them more technologically sophisticated, largely through cloud-based computing. He has noted that at GSA headquarters, 40% of desks are empty most days. (Tangherlini himself does not have a private office, preferring space in an open office setting in the newly renovated GSA headquarters at 1800 F Street, N.W.)
The agency, which holds 8,100 leases, continues to shift federal workers around to save on rent. Coming soon: The relocation of 2,100 staff and contractors of the National Science Foundation from Arlington, Va., 10 miles south to Alexandria, a move that the GSA says will save $100 million over 15 years.
The GSA has cut energy use in its buildings by almost 25% from the 2003 baseline set by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Along with the Environmental Protection Agency, it is on track to meet all seven sustainability goals tracked by the Office of Management and Budget.
The Obama Administration has asked for more than $2.1 billion in fiscal 2014 for non-Defense construction, including $1.3 billion for 28 large-scale renovation projects, $261 million for the $3.45 billion Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Southeast Washington, and $108 million for a new FBI records facility in Winchester, Va.
With sequestration in effect, however, it’s unlikely the GSA will get all that cash. In fact, the Government Accountability Office has recommended holding up 11 federal courthouse projects. The GAO says the projects, including those in Mobile, Ala., Nashville, Savannah, and Norfolk, Va., will total $3.2 billion, not the $1.1 billion the GSA says they will cost.
Welcome to business as usual inside the Beltway.
Mixed picture at the state and local level
State tax revenues were up 9.3% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, according to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government (reported at www.pewstates.org). Revenues were up in 39 of 47 measured states. North Dakota tallied 74.6% more year over year, and California pulled in a $4.5 billion windfall.
At the same time, however, many local governments have been hurting. Last March, the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that 30 of the nation’s most populous cities faced at least $192 billion in unpaid commitments for pensions and retiree healthcare benefits (www.pewstates.org/cities).
In sum, whether there will be money for civic building projects in your community will depend on three factors: location, location, location.