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Smithsonian Looks To Add 1M SF To Suitland Facility

A rendering of the proposed development on the Smithsonian's Suitland Collections Center campus.

A 110-acre Prince George's County property that houses the Smithsonian Institution's off-site collections is poised to grow significantly in the coming years.

The Smithsonian Institution filed plans with the National Capital Planning Commission to expand the Suitland Collections Center campus from 1.3M SF to 2.4M SF. The NCPC is scheduled to hold a meeting on the proposal Thursday.  

The organization that runs many of the museums in the nation's capital has more than 155 million objects and 2.2 million library volumes, and the Suitland property is the largest off-site facility for storing them. But several of the buildings on the campus have outlived their life expectancy and must be replaced, and the Smithsonian projects a significant expansion of the collections capacity it needs in the decades to come. 

The planned redevelopment would retain 902K SF of the existing 1.3M SF of facilities, demolishing the rest, and it would add 1.5M SF of new buildings. The new development would be built in phases over the span of four decades. In the next two decades, the Smithsonian envisions growing the campus by 626K SF. 

The long-term growth would increase the campus's population from 350 people, including full-time staff, part-time staff and visiting researchers, to more than 900. 

The Smithsonian is working with Bjarke Ingels Group on the long-term plan. It is also partnering with the architect on the $2B redevelopment of its South Campus on the National Mall. That project, also envisioned over the span of multiple decades, was approved by the NCPC in 2018. 

The new buildings on the Suitland campus would house collections for art and science museums, libraries and other institutional facilities. The Smithsonian said it designed the new buildings in a ring layout around a central green space, allowing it to cluster programs together and enable employees to walk between the buildings. 

"The orientation of the buildings draws natural light inside, creates open space for congregating and provides opportunities for shared, accessible amenities," the Smithsonian said in its submission to the NCPC. 

The plan would also reconfigure the entrances to the campus, and it calls for streetscape improvements and new bicycle lanes on the nearby Silver Hill Road. The 110-acre campus sits near the intersection of Silver Hill Road and Branch Avenue, about a half-mile from the Suitland Metro station. 

Prince George's County has sought to encourage development in Suitland with a $400M mixed-use development it began construction on in 2017. The 1M SF Suitland Town Center development also sits within a half-mile of the Metro station. Additionally, the federal government has sought to move hundreds of employees from the District to the nearby Suitland Federal Center.