Branch Avenue Metro development breaks ground

CIS groundbreakingCAMP SPRINGS – Federal and county officials gathered for the groundbreaking of the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) headquarters near the Branch Avenue Metro station on Oct. 30. This project is part of a wider strategy to bring more developments to Metro stations in the county.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, USCIS Director Francis Cissna, Congressman Anthony Brown, County Executive Rushern Baker, III, County Council Chair Derrick Davis, Councilmembers Karen Toles, Mel Franklin, Obie Patterson, and Dannielle Glaros, along with officials from the General Services Administration, attended the event.

“I’ve always believed that the federal government plays a critical role not only in performing the core functions of government – immigration, homeland security, emergency management – but the federal government also plays an important role in bringing economic opportunity to communities across the country,” Brown said. “Here we are today. The development of a new, modern headquarters facility for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is another step forward for our county, a real game changer for this community. USCIS and the jobs it will bring will also be an economic catalyst for the surrounding community.”

Brown said the project was possible through the county’s Economic Development Incentive Fund.

The building, which will occupy 574,767 rentable square feet, will consolidate six separate USCIS locations. The project is anticipated to bring 3,700 federal jobs to the county. Duke said it will be the first time USCIS will have a “singular headquarters.”

“I think that’s an amazing thing,” she said. “I think that you (USCIS employees) will find once you’re together and you’ve adjusted your commutes, it’s going to be even better in terms of your ability to work and carry out your mission.”

The new headquarters will save the agency $21.4 million in annual leased savings during the first year and reduce its footprint by 128,000 rentable square feet. Officials expect construction to last two years.

Davis said creating a transit-oriented development, or mixed-use areas around public transit stops, has been a priority for the county council for years.

“Our commitment (as a county council) has been to creating transit-oriented opportunities where you could live, work, play and pray,” he said. “My goal is to make sure all of the effort that has gone into getting us this far continues and redoubles and that this council and that this body as we serve the citizens of Prince George’s County and welcome citizenship and immigration to Prince George’s County will do everything in our power collectively to make that homecoming a great homecoming.”

Baker said that at the beginning of his administration, he decided to focus on five areas around Metro stations for development: Suitland, Branch Avenue, Largo Town Center, New Carrollton and the University Town Center in Hyattsville.

According to David Iannucci, assistant deputy chief administrative officer for economic development, the project to build the USCIS headquarters near the Branch Avenue Metro had been in the works for more than three years.

“Because this is one of our transit-oriented development sites that we targeted at the very beginning of the administration to focus on, we use our economic development incentive to help around it. This becomes a job creating center,” Baker said. “So not just with (USCIS) coming here, it’s also the industries that will support it. So, when this building is open, you will see mixed-use development. You’ll see apartments, restaurants, quality-of-life things, that will help create more jobs in Prince George’s County.”

Iannucci said all five of those areas have projects underway. As one of the priority areas, the USCIS headquarters had “higher levels of incentives, higher level of priority and faster permitting,” he said.

Baker said these developments are a positive sign for the county.

“All over Prince George’s County you see development taking place. I don’t think anybody seven years ago would have thought Prince George’s County would lead the state in job creation,” he said. ”What I can guarantee you, the men and women who will be working in this area, is that we in Prince George’s County are going to do everything we can in our power to make sure that your work here is enjoyable, your entertainment here is enjoyable, and that you spend time and spend money.”

Patterson, whose district includes the Branch Avenue Metro, also weighed in.

“You know the old saying that this is a good day and we should just be happy to rejoice and live in it? Well, we should just rejoice and be happy that the project is in Prince George’s County, along with District 8,” he said. “This is a county that is prime for future development. Sure we had a few bumps along the way - that’s typical when you have a project of this size - but I want to give a special shout out to those individuals who hung in there, who stayed the course, who did not give up. I believe they did so because they realized because this was a big project and we could not afford to let it slip away.”

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