Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Court Hears Lawsuit Against Wisconsin Avenue Giant Project


The D.C. Court of Appeals heard this morning arguments by the Wisconsin Newark Neighbors Coalition (WNNC) against the D.C. Zoning Commission to determine whether development of the Wisconsin Avenue Giant will move forward as planned. The project, named Cathedral Commons as of last year, includes a new 56,000 s.f. grocery store, 55,000 s.f. of ground floor, street-level retail, 150 condos or apartments and over 500 parking spaces.

Last July, the Zoning Commission gave their unanimous approval of the project, to which WNNC responded by filing an appeal, claiming that the Zoning Commission does not have the power under the PUD (zoning change approval) to eliminate a neighborhood commercial zone designation on the subject lots. In short, WNNC objects to the changes incurred in the rewriting of the Comprehensive Plan that was first drafted in 2006 that they perceive will increase height of the project and density of the area.

WNNC wants the city to revise the PUD as a two-stage application, and have asked the court to overturn the Commissions decision to grant the PUD within a neighborhood commercial overlay zone district, in what is a fairly typical zoning decision, claiming the Commission lacked authority.

Despite vocal neighborhood opposition, many quieter residents embrace the project. Trudy Reeves, D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 3C says she moved to the neighborhood after learning about the project. "I fully back the PUD," she said. "I bought in this area ten years ago because I heard the Giant was going to expand and that the project would bring with it more retail and make the area more vibrant."

In the meantime, ground level retail that flanks the grocery - The Kellogg Collection, a dry cleaner, Starbucks and Sullivan's Toy Store, for example - are in the midst of plans to vacate the premise to make way for construction. An unnamed retailer in the project tells DCMud that the developer has given them notice to move by late May. Once the Wisconsin Avenue Starbucks closes, Cleveland Park will lose its only remaining coffee shop, with the Connecticut Avenue Starbucks location having shuttered last year.

Councilwoman Mary Cheh's office (Ward 3) has also been supportive of the project and has been advised that the likelihood of the project going forward is strong, said Chief of Staff David Zvenyach.

The Wisconsin Avenue Giant Project has been saddled by at least a decade of delay as result of planning, zoning and neighborhood protests. Though Street Works has been consulting on development of the project, Giant Spokesperson Sharon Robinson says they're in the process of deciding upon selecting a development partner.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

19 comments:

Critically Urban on Mar 8, 2011, 5:36:00 PM said...

I hope they begin construction and finish the development before the project makes its way through the court system if it gets to that point. There's no way this case isn't thrown out. The NIMBYs and their intent to push their own neighborhood into a quick decline will lose.

Erin said...

Its amazing how many stupid arguments people can throw up in the name of stopping development, even when its smart growth. Time to get rid of the miserable building that's there now.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The project cannot start soon enough. From what I understand, the NIMBY arguments centered around the idea that BZA should have heard part of the case, not the Zoning Commission.

Um, no.

Please, let's move on to getting going with construction.

Anonymous said...

Despite Starbucks' long time campaign, I can assure that there are other coffee shops in the world. For instance, in Cleveland Park, Firehook also sells coffee.

Anonymous said...

For a tolerant, progressive city, many folks in this town can get mighty stupid when it comes to development.

What part of higher city tax revenue, higher property values does the neighborhood not understand?

What turns liberals into anti-development NIMBYists. I thought you liberals were for jobs and growth? You opposed the ICC, you oppose freeways, you oppose stadiums. How many empty lots in the city would you like?

I grew up in California and watched how the NIMBYists and anti-business activists in Berkeley destroyed Telegraph Ave. and Shattuck Ave.

Meanwhile, Emeryville next door boomed, only happy to take developers money and tax revenue.

Hope the building trades remember this come next election instead of mindlessly voting Democrat.

Anonymous said...

I lived on Newark many years ago and now come to the area quite frequently to go to Two Amys.

This place is in desperate need for redevelopment. I agree, it is too bad it is not on the Metro but the place just looks bad and drags the neighborhood down with it.

I can't wait for this to be done.

I think next step should be to do something about bus service on Wisconsin. Maybe dedicated lanes or something to add frequency, capacity and speed to the area.

Anonymous said...

They should just tear the building down and slap in a parking lot over there. It'd be a great site for commuters to park and take the bus the rest of the way downtown. The NIMBYs are gonna drive the neighborhood into that direction regardless.

Anonymous said...

Too many lawyers with too much free time and look what you get! How much in lost tax revenue to DC from 10 years of non-development?! The city should bill the NIMBYs or alternatively just offer to specifically raise their taxes to compensate. So glad I loved out of DC to not have to deal with this short-term thinking!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous. Exactly, too many lawyers. Remember when Democrats used to like to build things? Now they over-litigate, over-regulate and otherwise push paper...

Typical for a government town where your income comes from taxpayers. Its easy to sit on your hands when you're spending other people's money.

Try living on a journeyman carpenters salary, going from job to job trying to feed your family. You might have a better understanding of what "work" actually is.

Anonymous said...

This issue has nothing to do with being liberal. Liberals are for smart growth and this is apparently smart growth. This is simply about monied upset neighbors. Don't get stupidly anti-liberal because well, your anti-liberal. Conservatives love lawsuits just as much as anyone

A-lo on Mar 10, 2011, 9:37:00 AM said...

Cacao in Cleveland Park also qualifies as a coffee shop. And they serve a mean hot chocolate.

Anonymous said...

Obstruction of this project has been supported and enabled mightily by Councilman Phil Mendelson.

Anonymous said...

Why does every issue have to be Liberal versus Conservative? New space is needed...throw a crumb to the "monied folks" by creating a boffo green space somewhere...and don't let Starbucks back.

Anonymous said...

Think what the NIMBY's could be doing with all that money wasted on high-priced attorneys and consultants. They could be buying the properties themselves and doing what they want with them.

Anonymous said...

I moved out of McLean Gardens and farther downtown so I could be in a more vibrant area. I love 2Amy's but one good restaurant can't support the needs of an entire neighborhood. Redevelop this property before more residents realize that so much more is offered elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

There could be two other shoes to drop which could further delay this project: 1. the possibility that remediation may be required if the current parking lot was the site of WW I-era munitions disposed of by the Army, as has been found throughout that area and 2. that the PG "pay to play" probe may be expanding into DC.

Anonymous said...

If the case is in the court of appeals, it's not going to get "thrown out" before it's decided. It seems that the panel of judges was quite interested in it, according to the NW Current story. It's doubtful the Hogan & Hartson/Lovells firm would have taken on a frivolous case. Plus, the Current reported that Giant's lawyer basically conceded his client's case when he said the BZA would have turned the development down as "too big, too tall, too much" for the neighborhood. Wow.

Anonymous said...

I live across the street from this project. I've spoken with my neighbors, and don't think anyone is against the new supermarket or retail space. But the zoning board is rewriting the rules so Ahold (the foreign corporation that owns Giant) can add two more stories to the north lot. This will take money from me (by reducing my property value) and give it to Ahold. The additional two stories won't bring any additional economic activity to DC, so the only benefit would be realized by a Dutch conglomerate. Let them build, but make them stick to the zoning rules that are in place.

Anonymous said...

What is so smart about bigger and bigger buildings, on roads that are already over crowded?

A new building of the same size was always an option.

 

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