GEICO and Planning Commission Disagree Over Headquarters Redevelopment

Chevy Chase-based GEICO, one the largest insurance companies in the nation and with primary offices across the Maryland/D.C. border in Montgomery County is set to appear in front of the Montgomery County Planning Board on November 17, 2011 but for reasons not to the liking of either side.

The Planning Board is set to vote on the validity of an extension request for plans to redevelop GEICO's headquarters, and depending on which way the board votes could be a lose-lose situation for both parties.

GEICO, also known as the Government Employees Insurance Company has been in Montgomery County for decades with the current headquarters built in the 1970s and the company was a large publicly traded company until it was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1996.

GEICO has sent another preliminary plan validity extension request for the redevelopment of its site at Willard Avenue and Friendship Boulevard, an area typically known to residents as Friendship Commons. But Planning staff has reviewed GEICO's request and are making a recommendation of denial for the extension. The Planning Board has the final say.

The first filling by GEICO took place in February 25, 1999. The project plan specifications include 810,000 square feet of office space, and 500 residential units. The insurance company says the redevelopment couldn't take hold due to hardship. In a letter to County officials, GEICO representative, Robert R. Harris stated, "...exceptional and undue hardship would result to the Applicant, as well as to the community and the County at large, if this Plan were not extended." If the extension is approved, the plans would be on hold for a total of more than 20 years, expiring June 13, 2020. The Planning staff believe that's too long of a time period to wait for redevelopment and that GEICO has not made any strong argument as to why redevelopment has taken so long.

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