At least two locations in Alexandria want to be the new home of the National Science Foundation, or NSF.
The NSF is currently located in Ballston, which has some of the most expensive office space in Arlington. Local officials are working hard to keep it there.
"The synergy that exists in our technology hub in Ballston is what makes Arlington so desirable to tech companies, and NSF is the centerpiece of that synergy," Jennifer Ives, director of business investment at Arlington Economic Development, told Patch in an email.
"The unique partnerships and collaboration that exist between NSF and other agencies, including DARPA, ONR (the Office of Naval Research) and private companies, are critical to the successful missions of all of these agencies."
This month, the General Services Administration pushed back the deadline for the agency to be in its new home — whether that's Arlington or elsewhere — by two years, to December 2016, potentially opening the door for interested developers to construct new buildings to accommodate it, according to the Washington Business Journal.
The GSA "has said who can provide the best bottom line … is considered the winner,” Alexandria Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks said this week. “I think you’ll see a lot of sharpened pencils all over the region in the next month.”
Jinks and Alexandria Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Val Hawkins made a presentation to the Alexandria City Council on Tuesday about properties at the Hoffman Center and Carlyle Plaza, which plan to bid on the project.
The NSF currently occupies two buildings in Ballston, and its lease expires next year. The institution is one of the federal government’s primary scientific research organizations, and Alexandria officials believe it would be a huge economic boon for that city. The agency has a $7 billion annual budget, 2,400 employees and a contractor tail of another 2,200.
“A lot of them are PhDs with salaries to go along with that,” Jinks said. “The economic impact of NSF on a square foot basis is greater than any agency.”
The GSA is seeking a 15-year lease on 668,000 square feet of office space within a half-mile of a Metro station to house the NSF. Proposals are due Jan. 9.
About eight sites in Northern Virginia are thought to currently be in the running.
Reston is in play thanks to the construction of the Silver Line, Hawkins said. Potomac Yard is a possibility, he said, depending on whether a Metro station can be delivered in time.
The two sites in Alexandria updated their permits with the city this year, potentially giving them an advantage. All of the basics of those buildings, approved this year, meet the federal government's criteria without any material changes, Jinks said.
Alexandria officials should communicate that in light of a predisposition to keep the NSF in Arlington, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said. The work that's been done should lead to a quicker land-use approval process, which should work to the city's benefit, he said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., has been among those leading the fight to keep the NSF in Arlington.
Moran is a former mayor of Alexandria, and his district includes the city. He issued the following statement:
“NSF has a good home in Ballston and I am committed to keeping the agency there. Separating the NSF from its collaborative partners along the technology corridor in Arlington would harm the Foundation's ability to complete its objectives.”