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WASHINGTON, DC-The District and private sector developer Akridge has broken ground on the latest municipal project for the city: a $20-million property and evidence warehouse project in DC Village, an industrial park located at 34 DC Village Lane, SW.

The 30,000-square-foot facility–which has been designed to meet LEED Silver standards–is expected to deliver February 2011. The city’s decision to build, rather than lease space, makes sense for its operations in general, according to Sean Madigan, a spokesperson in the Mayor’s office.

“We own a number of properties and have been trying to leverage them–particularly in emerging neighborhoods.” The evidence warehouse is the ideal poster child for this trend, he adds, as by law the city is required to keep such property for 65 years. “Rather than negotiate with a landlord every five or ten years we decided to build,” he says.

This trend–which is evident in other site decisions the city has made–is not without controversy, especially in the current economic environment and rising vacancies. Still though, building delivers dollars into the local economy–albeit through outside firms. DC recently awarded Whiting-Turner a $133-million contract to build the District’s Consolidated Forensic Laboratory–a 287,000-square-foot, six-story structure that will ultimately cost the District $220 million including specialized equipment, Madigan noted. “If things work out as expected, we will be breaking ground on that within 30 to 60 days.” He also points to the 229,000-square-foot headquarters for DC’s Department of Employment Services located next to the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station in Northeast Washington. Locally-based EEC and Forrester Construction are developing the $48-million building, which is expected to deliver in early 2011.

The District is also aggressively promoting private sector development of unused sites in the city, with an emphasis on abandoned school locations, Madigan points out. With an eye on the economic environment, the city has been pushing to make the TIC and PILOT financial commitments earlier in the process, he says. “We are putting that in the front-end of the project now,” Madigan explains, “so the development team can take that to lenders.”

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