General Services Administration

Specialty: Landlord for civilian federal government agencies
Management: Kimberly Gray, Real Estate Acquisitions Division director
Founded: 1949
Headquarters: Washington, D.C., with a regional office in Auburn
Current projects: New lease for FAA in South King County; various office leases in privately owned facilities; U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s new office at the Peace Arch Port of Entry in Blaine; modernization of Federal Center South in Seattle for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; upgrades of the Jackson Federal and other federal facilities in the Puget Sound area

Image courtesy of GSA
Work is under way on the $72 million modernization of the Federal Center South in Seattle. Sellen Construction is the general contractor and ZGF is the architect. It’s expected to be LEED gold certified.

With private-sector job growth still weak, the federal government has become one of the marketplace’s biggest tenants, and the agency that handles these deals has streamlined its processes to entice more landlords to compete for business.

In the Seattle area, 13 expiring leases totaling 290,000 square feet either have been awarded or are under negotiations. Four other leases are up for grabs. The largest is the Federal Aviation Administration’s possible new facility in South King County. There are three other leases totaling 44,000 square feet in separate Seattle buildings; those deals expire between 2011 and 2013. Space requirements are listed at

Easier to be a landlord

A challenge the Public Building Service’s division in the General Services Administration has had is getting landlords to submit proposals. They’re scared off by complicated rules.

“I know a lot of lessors shy away from doing business with the government,” said the GSA’s Kimberly Gray. To streamline the process and increase competition among landlords, GSA simplified processes this fall.

Instead of issuing a 1-inch-thick document outlining a lease requirement, GSA now issues one- to two-page initial documents so landlords can quickly see if their buildings meet criteria. GSA also is making tenant-improvement documents more uniform and following industry standards so agency officials can analyze competing proposals faster. In addition, GSA raised the threshold for smaller, or simplified, leases, which can be executed faster. Previously, the limit was $100,000 a year in rent. Now it’s $150,000 a year.

Big space for FAA

GSA is making other changes. President Obama has mandated that agencies reduce the amount of space they occupy. An office might expand with more people, but the amount of space each employee takes is to shrink.

Gray thinks that’s part of what is occurring with the FAA South King County lease. FAA is consolidating operations from elsewhere in the West to suburban Seattle. Currently, the agency is in a 400,000-square-foot facility in Renton.

To accommodate more employees, GSA had requested proposals for a 519,000-square-foot campus, and said the agency would pay as much as $24.4 million a year in rent for 20 years. The assignment has attracted interest from regional and national developers and contractors.

Now the FAA has indicated it will reduce the size of this requirement. GSA officials put the project on hold as they wait for the FAA to finalize revisions.

Going to zero

Using less space per employee is one part of the federal government’s push to be more environmentally sustainable. Last spring, GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson proposed that the federal government move to a zero environmental footprint by 2030.

Gray said that GSA is doing this by taking small steps to make green practices part of leases with private landlords and capital projects.

When a facility is demolished, project teams must look at not only recycling materials but how they can reuse them. In designing facilities, federal officials work with private-sector partners to select recyclable materials or ones that can be used again down the line.

Government facilities have moveable walls to make spaces more flexible, and employees are encouraged to work more from home and share work stations.

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