The City of Alexandria has agreed on a 15-year lease for a Mark Center office owned by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), the nonprofit announced today. The lease, which was signed on May 26, will go in effect when the city’s Department of Community and Human Services and Health Department moves into the property at 4850 Mark Center Drive in February 2023.
The city has an option to buy the property and are interested in exploring that option, city spokesman Craig Fifer told ALXnow.
IDA will move out of the property, which it has called home for nearly four decades, and into its new 370,000-square-foot headquarters at Potomac Yard in February 2022, according to a press release. The new facility will be blocks away from the new Potomac Yard Metro station and next door to the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.
“This is a key milestone in our progress toward Potomac Yard occupancy and continued advancement of our work for our sponsors,” said IDA President and CEO Norton A. Schwartz in a statement. “Eight years ago, we committed to moving into a new building in Potomac Yard equipped with the latest technology and security requirements to better support our growing organization.”
IDA has the mission to “answer the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis leveraging extraordinary scientific, technical, and analytic expertise,” according to its website.
The deal has been in the works since at least 2018. According to a city memo, it will cost approximately $1.9 million in annual building operating expenses and the city would need nearly $14 million in “upfront tenant fit-out costs.”
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The Mark Center building in Alexandria’s West End could become the new center for screening letters and packages headed to the Pentagon.
The Department of Defense is planning to hold a meeting at the nearby Francis C. Hammond Middle School (4646 Seminary Road) on Thursday, Nov. 14, to provide information about the plan and to answer questions from the community.
All mail and packages delivered to certain military facilities go through screening and protective measures, according to a press release from the City of Alexandria.
The process screens for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threats, with multiple levels of protection to prevent hazards from leaving the screening room. In the 18 years the screening process has been operated, the press release says only one threat — a biological one — was identified and was subsequently contained.
In 2018, it was reported that the Pentagon received two envelopes suspected of containing the deadly toxin ricin. The Washington Examiner noted at the time that the Pentagon’s mail was screened at a facility on the Pentagon reservation.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon built a massive underground remote processing facility on the west side of the building to screen all deliveries, including mail, into the building.
Newsweek reported in March that another suspicious package prompted a brief evacuation of the Pentagon mail screening facility.
The Mark Center building has a mail screening facility built, but not currently in use. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency plans to start using the mail screening in the Mark Center in early 2020, replacing the temporary facility built after 9/11.
The Mark Center facility is expected to receive an estimated 2,000 letters and packages per day.
“While we have made it clear to Pentagon officials that we don’t want additional sensitive deliveries brought to Alexandria for screening,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a press release, “we will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure that all risks are properly mitigated.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott