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Robb backs local control of building

Virginia Sen. Charles Robb (D) met with the Charlottesville City Council yesterday to discuss the future of the National Ground Intelligence Center, a federally owned building located beside City Hall.

In the first quarter of 2001, the Center and its employees will move to a new complex located in Albermarle County.

Robb met with the Council in City Hall and then moved outside for an afternoon press conference.

Robb and Charlottesville Mayor Virginia Daugherty stood before the rectangular, red-brick building to describe their efforts to find a new use for it.

Robb said he visited the Center two years ago when its transfer was first announced.

He said he had an interest in the city's development because he resided in Charlottesville for a time, and obtained his law degree from the University.

Robb's daughter attended the University for her undergraduate degree also.

He described the Center as "an economic anchor for many other downtown businesses."

The Center employs 630 people, with an average salary of $67,000.

Daugherty explained that the Center has such a large impact on the Charlottesville area because it houses numerous and well-paid employees, who "shop and eat in downtown every day."

Robb expressed his admiration for Charlottesville's "revitalization" of the downtown area and stressed his desire to "maintain [the city's] vitality, vibrancy and attractiveness" despite what he termed "a significant challenge to the economic development of the area."

Daugherty reiterated Robb's concern, calling the relocation of the Center the city's "biggest economical development problem."

City Council has been working for two years to fill the void that will be left when the building is vacated.

Officials had hoped to attract another federal agency to the building site, but the government has declined this option.

But Daugherty said the city still hopes to find another use for the building.

After consulting with the Council, Robb has agreed to attempt to pass legislation in Congress that would transfer ownership of the building to the city after it has been vacated.

If the city obtains ownership of the building, Council officials hope to attract private corporate interests, Daugherty said.

All parties were vague regarding further details of this plan, but Robb said he expects the new occupant of the building to "maintain the economic vitality that the entity there right now represents for the community."

Although Robb expressed his optimism for the building's future, he said he did not "want to offer any false sense of hope at this point," and stressed that there are often unforeseen conflicts and complications when dealing with Congress.

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