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