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FBI moving offices to Chelsea

Transfer will bring hundreds of new jobs; complex could be complete by 2015

After years of legal delays, the Boston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — long a fixture in Government Center — is moving forward with construction of a new complex in Chelsea that will bring hundreds of new employees and boost the city’s redevelopment efforts.

Federal officials in charge of the relocation said the complex will be about 220,000 square feet — roughly the size of two Home Depots — and will occupy a now-vacant parcel off Everett Avenue near Route 1. The FBI is hoping to move to the property by early 2015.

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The decision follows the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a South Boston property owner that had been hoping to host the agency. Local and federal officials said the new FBI building will advance Chelsea’s efforts to remake itself with the development of other new offices, homes, and retail stores.

“The City of Chelsea has come a long way over the years, and this development is symbolic of the community’s turnaround,” said US Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who has advocated for the FBI’s relocation to the city.

Over the past several years, Chelsea has attracted construction of more than 1,000 new homes and an array of major commercial developments, including a massive Market Basket, multiple hotels, and several new restaurants and stores.

The FBI will add a large new employer to the landscape that will also generate additional foot traffic for local businesses. Greg Comcowich, a spokesman for the FBI, said the agency has a policy of not disclosing the number of employees assigned to each of its field offices.

Comcowich added, however, that the FBI has more than 500 employees throughout Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, not counting personnel from other agencies assigned to FBI-led task forces.

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The agency chose the site over a South Boston location owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority and leased to real estate firm Pappas Enterprises. Executives with Pappas could not be reached for comment.

Pappas Enterprises had filed multiple legal challenges to the decision by the General Services Administration, which oversees property matters for the US government, to move the FBI to the Chelsea property, arguing in a federal lawsuit that the process was flawed. The lawsuit, filed in the US Court of Federal Claims, was dismissed in March, and the GSA has been making preparations to move forward with construction in Chelsea.

The new complex will be built on a large empty lot off Everett Avenue, near the Wyndham Hotel. It is owned by ACS Development, one of Chelsea’s largest property owners. The firm has developed more than a dozen Chelsea properties and was the first real estate company to build in the city following a devastating fire in 1973.

ACS did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

It is not clear when construction will begin. The GSA said work will move forward as soon as the design is complete, a process that typically takes several months.

The Everett Avenue property will allow the agency to build the kind of wide, reinforced perimeters for law enforcement that are more difficult to create in crowded downtown Boston. Chelsea is home to other significant government agencies, including the federal Transportation Security Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, which has a 450,000-square-foot office building in Chelsea. The FBI offices would be in the urban renewal district where Chelsea has focused much of its recent redevelopment efforts.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.

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