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Moran 'Optimistic' NSF Will Remain in Ballston

Efforts to keep NSF and land FBI are wholly unrelated, congressman says.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, who has spent months working to keep the National Science Foundation in Arlington, is optimistic that work will pay off.

"People have come to the conclusion that the best location is right near where they are — in the Ballston corridor," Moran told Patch last week following a news conference about Virginia's efforts to land the new FBI headquarters.

"I think the NSF is going to stay in Ballston," said the Virginia Democrat, noting the number of its employees who live within a short distance of the facility.

The City of Alexandria is also making a play for the NSF, hoping it can woo it away from Arlington similar to its successful efforts bringing the Patent and Trademark Office to the Carlyle district.

Moran, who brought together Northern Virginia leaders with a "singular focus" of landing the new FBI headquarters in Virginia, said the two projects were wholly unrelated. Arlington is perhaps the only jurisdiction in Northern Virginia not making a play for the FBI.

When the the Food and Drug Administration began consolidating its facilities in recent years, it was "understood" that if Maryland got the FDA, then Northern Virginia would get to keep the NSF, Moran said, specifically citing conversations with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

"Those gentlemen's agreements are still in place," Moran told Patch. "But the FBI relocation is a jump ball. To continue the metaphor, it's not a slam dunk for any location."

The General Services Administration, which manages most real estate deals for the federal government, accepted proposals for a potential new home for the NSF through Jan. 6, according to Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes.

The GSA does not have a hard deadline for making a decision, she told Patch in an email, but Moran's office expects such a decision in the next several months.

The administration is under pressure to find cheaper space for the agency, which has an annual budget of about $7 billion and approves about 11,000 requests for funding each year. The GSA is working under a cap of $38 per square foot of office space — which has made the likelihood of the entity remaining in Ballston questionable. The area is the second-most expensive submarket in Arlington County to do business. That's especially true when locations in nearby Alexandria or along the planned Silver Line, like Reston, fall well below the rent cap. 

Despite that, "Arlington County will do anything we can to make sure the NSF will continue to be a part of our community," Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada told a crowd Thursday night at the Ballston Business Improvement District's LaunchPad kickoff.

Ballston has transformed over the last 20 years, thanks largely to the relocation of the National Science Foundation to the area from Washington in 1993, Tejada said. Since then, a number of government agencies, research institutions and small businesses have followed suit.

During , that agency made it clear it was "mission critical" to be near the NSF and other agencies in the Ballston area, said Jennifer Ives, director of business investment for Arlington Economic Development.

"They want to stay in Ballston," she said. "The other agencies want them to stay."

Whatever final location is chosen, the new NSF lease would begin in December 2016, stated Hughes, with Moran's office.

"We have continued to put pressure on GSA and work with involved parties to make the case for keeping NSF in Ballston," Hughes stated. "We are optimistic it will remain in its current location."

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