UPDATE – Mar 24, 2014 – Construction To Begin On New DHCD HQ In PG – Post
UPDATE – May 21, 2013 – State Is Preparing To Move Forward On New Site For DHCD, To Be Presented To The Board Of Public Works May 29 – Biz Jour
A house for housing is in the news again. The Governor has decided to try again to lease space for the Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) in Prince George’s County. Proposals for 92,707 sq ft of office space are due by December 4, 2012.
What is surprising is that only a week before, after the financial failings of the developer and much opposition, the DHCD move had been cancelled. I had hoped the move was dead.
DHCD currently resides in Crownsville. Its 330 employees are mostly local and don’t want to move.
The reason for the move is purely political. In 2010, during his re-election campaign, Gov. O’Malley promised the political officials of Prince George’s County that he would move the headquarters of one of the state’s departments to PG County to boost economic development. The Governor decided to move DHCD to fulfill that promise.
To justify the move the Governor’s Administration commissioned a feasibility study paid for by state funds. The study was then quoted by the Administration to support the move and supposedly supports many outlandish claims including the promise of about $20 million in extra economic development and the enormous advantages to smart growth of being located near Metro and the MARC rail.
The legislature has had many questions. You see the state owns the current DHCD building. It is a modern, attractive building and it is owned debt free.
Explain a $20 million economic benefit when the state will be forced to pay $35 sq ft market rent to some politically connected developer in PG County, which is an extra $25 million over the 15 year lease term plus the $3.5 million in moving costs? Also it is insulting that the Governor keeps invoking mass transportation as some mystical talisman to justify the move when the reality is that the employees live near Crownsville, not Fairfax, and will be commuting in the opposite direction.
The county delegation made up of the 15 delegates and 5 senators that represent Anne Arundel County, and the Appropriations Committee that oversees the DHCD budget has had 5 hearings on the issue. The Administration has refused to justify their numbers or even release the state funded feasibility study.
If the Governor wants to curry favor with taxpayer money there are many state agencies and departments currently operating out of leased space, much of it dated and rundown, that would probably welcome and benefit from the move, but moving DHCD when we own the building and it is opposed by the employees is wrong. The state is facing its 9th budget deficit in ten years and can’t afford to waste an extra $28 million for political payoffs. It is time the Governor cancel the move.