Before the General Services Administration started taking flak from the current Congress about travel and conference spending, lawmakers were putting the heat on the GSA about a backlog of empty federal buildings that are costing taxpayers millions in maintenance each year.
This is the fourth hearing this year that Republicans on the House Transportation Committee - which has oversight for the GSA - have held in an empty federal facility.
The hearing Monday is in Miami.
"There's a federal courthouse there that's been vacant for a number of years," said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who is again leading the charge against the GSA.
Back in June, Mica held a hearing at a heating plant about a mile from the White House that had been sitting in the GSA portfolio for eleven years before the feds finally decided to try to offer it up for development.
This Miami courthouse is a similar story, because just days before the hearing, the GSA proudly announced that it would be accepting offers on future redevelopment, issuing what's known as a "Request for Information."
Here is the GSA statement from last week:
This initiative is the latest in the agency’s ongoing effort to dispose of excess properties, making more efficient use of the government’s real estate assets and saving taxpayer dollars. Over the past year, the federal government has sold and transferred 97 excess properties valued at $82 million.
“We are looking forward to receiving solid ideas from the development community,” said Shyam Reddy, Regional Administrator of GSA’s Southeast Sunbelt Region. “These responses will help GSA proceed with a strong repositioning strategy for the Dyer Courthouse. We stand firm behind our commitment to ensuring the property is repurposed in a way that benefits the local community and extracts the highest return to the American taxpayer.”
The beautifully preserved Spanish-Mediterranean Revival was constructed in 1933 and sits on 1.6 acres in the Miami Federal Justice Center. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and until 2008, the building was occupied by the Federal Judiciary. With the recent construction of the new Wilkie D. Ferguson U.S. Courthouse, tenants of the Dyer building relocated to the newly constructed courthouse. As a result, GSA seeks to understand the possible development potential and usage for the property.
Lawmakers say that answer fully explains their frustration with the GSA, arguing that there are hundreds of federal buildings sitting unoccupied, costing millions for upkeep, but it takes years to even get them on the market for sale or redevelopment.
Back in February, Mica held a hearing in an empty building on Pennsylvania Avenue - literally blocks from the White House - to press the GSA to put the Old Post Office Pavillion up for some kind of private development.
"We've turned that first property from a money losing asset to where a thousand people will be employed," Mica said, as it will now be turned into a luxury hotel in between the Capitol and White House.
The developer? Some guy named Trump.
Mica argues the GSA needs to get off the dime and put more federal buildings on the market.
"We've got buildings that have been empty for decades," Mica said.
The members of the state ethics commission, eager to bring order to one of the most disordered corners of state government, hired a “receiver” last week to heal their agency and then did they only thing they could.
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