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Posted April 11, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Missing agency: FBI project over budget, delaying construction in Frederick County

Construction of the FBI complex
Construction of the FBI complex near White Hall on Rest Church Road has stalled as the agency re-evaluates its budget for the project. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By James Heffernan — jheffernan@nvdaily.com

CLEAR BROOK — The development of an FBI records complex in northern Frederick County has been delayed after the agency’s plans for the site came in over budget.

In an e-mail this week, Gina Blyther Gilliam, a spokeswoman in the Mid-Atlantic office of the General Services Administration, which handles federal government leases, said the project “encountered several cost challenges last fall when trying to incorporate the entire scope of requirements.”

The initial plans called for about 950,000 square feet of office space, a state-of-the-art records storage facility and a data center on a 107-acre site off Woodbine Road in the White Hall section of the county. The site, owned by local contractor George M. Sempeles, was selected over two other area properties in June 2007, and a GSA study that year concluded that the use complies with local development plans and meets environmental and transportation standards.

The complex would employ about 1,200 people and is designed to improve the FBI’s record-management efficiency, including electronic retrieval and storage, while freeing up needed space in the bureau’s J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington.

A groundbreaking was scheduled for last fall, and the project was supposed to be completed by 2010. However, a partial extension of Rest Church Road at its intersection with Martinsburg Pike — the main entrance to the complex — is the only visible sign of construction.

GSA is in the midst of revising plans for the site in preparation for soliciting construction bids, Gilliam said, adding that the agency is working with the FBI to ensure the project will be affordable.

A public notice with the space requirements and a revised project schedule will be issued in the near future, she said.

“Obviously, the community would most likely prefer to see the project completed sooner rather than later,” Patrick Barker, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission, said Friday.

“Regardless of timing, however, the project holds immense benefit to the immediate area surrounding the project and, more importantly, the community overall, both economically and otherwise,” he said.

Rutherford Crossing, a 500,000-square-foot shopping center near the Interstate 81 Stephenson exit, is nearly leased out. Phase II, to be anchored by a grocery store, eventually will connect to the planned 2,600-home Snowden Bridge subdivision on the other side of the highway.

Long term, county economic development officials envision clusters of “convenience retail strips” along Martinsburg Pike, with banks, restaurants, hotels and other service industries stretching north to the West Virginia line.

Sempeles himself has plans for a 16,000-square-foot commercial center near the FBI complex.

The FBI’s budget for the current fiscal year includes $9 million for the development of the complex, according to Dan Scandling, chief of staff for 10th District Rep. Frank R. Wolf. Wolf is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the agency.

The FBI is currently leasing more than 100,000 square feet of space for temporary records storage at the former Jouan Inc. plant in the East Gate Industrial Park off U.S. 522 near Stephens City. The agency’s 10-year lease expires in August 2016.

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