Want to see a developer chided by development-hungry residents? Over pedestrian safety? The ANC-7D meeting Friday evening is your chance. Last October, the District government chose Donatelli Development to develop a 5-acre parcel at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road. The $108 million mixed-use project boasts 40,000 square feet of retail space, 375 affordable housing units and 60 market units. Representatives from local ANCs promise a thorough review of Donatelli's project presentation.
ANC-7D Chairperson Willette Seaward said that despite the city's award of the project and subsequent land disposition review, there was no "official" ANC support. Seaward said she believed Donatelli had met with residents only once after being awarded the RFP last October and failed to "engage the community."
The primary issues are traffic congestion and pedestrian safety at the intersection of Minnesota Ave. and Benning Road. Resident groups like the Coalition for Smarter Growth want public easement and right-of-way for a possible future street connection that would extend Minnesota Ave. along the Metro tracks and add an intersection to reduce congestion. Neighboring ANC7C04 Commissioner, Sylvia Brown was frustrated that prescribed changes in the Minnesota Avenue Great Streets plan, such as the Minn-Benn Phase 2 Benning bridge access road, were not implemented in Donatelli's plan.
Commissioner Seaward said residents are also concerned about not having enough market-rate housing necessary to attract high-end retail. Additionally, the community wants a binding benefit agreement to include public green space, internships and job training for residents or funds for local community centers. Commissioner Brown said the community wants to shed its reputation for being opposed to everything by working with the developer to find a solution.
According to Chris Donatelli, President and CEO of Donatelli Development, the project is not going through the PUD process, but they are working closely with the city on the plan since it is part of a public-private partnership. Donatelli cited the community spaces (think NGO offices) already included in the plan and modifications that added a for-sale component as examples of their collaboration. According to Donatelli, the July disposition hearing was the first time the developers were made aware of community concerns over right-of-way. At that time, DC Council Members asked the developer to consider including the right-of-way. Donatelli said they are meeting with DDOT and in the end are pretty flexible, "you always want to have community support."
We'll see what happens when Donatelli's team presents their project to the community this Friday the 31st at 6:30 in the 6D Police Station Community Room at 100-42nd St NE. It guarantees not to be a dull evening.