Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wisconsin Giant "Launch Party" this Thursday

Despite a pending legal battle that has tied up the Wisconsin Avenue Giant, developers are moving forward - pretty soon - with their 56,000-s.f. grocery store project that will add additional retail, residential, and office space. Developer Steet-Works has announced a "launch party" for this Thursday to celebrate the impending demolition of the abandoned 1950's era G.C. Murphy Co. store and existing Giant, which will yield to a newly renamed "Cathedral Commons."

Parent company Stop & Shop owns the site bounded by Idaho Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and Macomb Street and divided by Newark Street, all of which now contains a mostly-abandoned, one-story retail strip and surface parking. Upset with the parking provisions, the threat of increasing density in the area, and even challenging the Commission's authority to make the specific zoning amendment ruling that approved the project, the Wisconsin-Newark Neighbors Coalition (WNNC) had filed a lawsuit to prevent the project, challenging, as they had previously, the Zoning Commission's 2009 approval of the project.

Despite the burst of optimism on the ultimate outcome of the development, the litigation has not yet been resolved, and Street-Works does not plan to begin construction until March of next year. DC officials and President of Giant Food Robin Michel, among others, will gather to announce their commitment to moving forward, ambitiously marking the last days of the 50-year old block that is a deteriorating and out-dated eye-sore. In an official press release Giant promises: "the development will create new jobs and feature neighborhood retail shops, restaurants, a 56,000-square-foot supermarket, townhomes, apartments, engaging open spaces, and an attractive streetscape." Developers insist that the current tenants will relocate into the new retail space upon completion.

When asked what circumstances changed to justify throwing a launch party this week, Sharon Robinson, a consultant for the Giant Team, explained that "this is simply a chance for the company to publicly voice its support for the project, and its commitment to move forward." She added that it will provide the opportunity for Giant officials to elaborate on the details and timeline of the development plans going forward. Councilwoman Mary Cheh is one of the many invested individuals who is happy to hear the news. "I am delighted, as I'm sure residents are," Cheh explained, "that after waiting for many years for this development, that we are finally on the threshold of it actually happening." There is always the worry that the litigation will again prove a hitch in the development's progress, but Cheh has been assured that the legal case of the opposition is not very strong.
In total, the proposed project will contain approximately 136,500 square feet of retail space and 140-150 residential units. After construction begins, developers expect the entire project to be completed within three years. How the project will be phased - likely in two phases - and how developers plan to transition from the old grocery store into the new, remains unsettled. Perhaps those answers will be revealed on Thursday.

Update: The launch party, as predicted by our prescient poster below, has been called off. Giant recently sent out an e-blast saying: "Giant Food wants to give all members of the community an opportunity to join us to launch the new project to redevelop the Wisconsin Avenue Giant and Friendship Shopping Center, which will be known as Cathedral Commons. To honor the High Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah, we will postpone the previously announced launch event." A new date has yet to be set.

Washington DC real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Awesome. I hope the dolts that call this "Cleveland Park" and tried to stop this development don't shop there when its built. The sooner it gets done the better. 5 stories downtown, on a main avenue, and people are fighting this? Morons. Better watch out, might look like Connecticut Avenue if they keep building. Oh wait, Connecticut is much nicer...

Anonymous said...

Even some of the project's supporters are asking themselves how Giant and Streetworks could be so clueless as to schedule the project launch on Rosh Hashanah. (Not to mention that the surrounding streets will be crowded with those trying to park for services at nearby Washington Hebrew Congregation.) Giant will probably go forward with its plans, but some of the candidates likely will cancel before the event.

Anonymous said...

Inaccuracies in this article perpetuate myths about the Cathedral Commons project that's replacing the 50 year old Friendship Shopping Center.
This redevelopment project covers two blocks -- and it's not "a mostly abandoned, one-story retail strip."
The existing Giant and former G.C.Murphy (which Giant has kept vacant for 10 years) are located on only one of the blocks to be redeveloped. The other block, to the north, is also to be demolished and rebuilt. The two story building here contains thriving, longtime tenants that the neighborhood depends on, including Starbucks, Suntrust Bank, Sullivans Toys, Kellogg Collection, Friendship Barbershop, Parks Cleaners, Giant Pharmacy, and the hugely popular Hot Yoga.
Over the past 3+ years, developers have consistently promised that the Giant block will be redeveloped first, so north block tenants can move into new space there before the north block is begun. But it seems Giant is reneging on that. At least one well-established tenant, told by Giant they have to vacate in February, has no place to go and is effectively being forced out of business. More will likely follow. Pols like Cheh have been fooled into believing this is "smart growth".

Ben said...

@anonymous 1:06 AM

This will be a great project that helps contributes to this section of Wisconsin Avenue and makes it an even more vibrant, desirable place to live.

This location is exactly where new residential growth should be located. It is within a 20 minute walk of two metro stations, is served by the 30s buses and the H4 bus. There will also be a Capital Bikeshare stations here.

Additionally, bringing new residents to this area will provide the District with more property, income and sales tax to pay for services such as better public education, improved transit, and libraries. The new residents will also help create significant local demand to help support neighborhood businesses. Alliance Tavern recently closed. This was an excellent business and one can only think that this would have been a viable business if new customers lived within walking distance of here.

Anonymous said...

Good god, which of the WNNC people is 1:06 AM?

Please, this site has been woeful for years, thanks to the small handful of people who persist in keeping everything as it was in 1957. Times change, lifestyles change, and you know what? Despite this new development, nothing is going to change with the residential lifestyle on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.

Please, give it a rest. It is time to move on.

Anonymous said...

FINALLY. I don't get the NIMBYs. Don't you live in this area because you want to be in an Urban/Walkable environment? If only supporters would show up to support this the way that NIMBYs rally to stop a project. Please redevelop this area soon!

Anonymous said...

How, exactly, is it "NIMBY" to conclude that emptying out an entire block of operating, neighborhood-serving businesses is dumb, not smart growth? By early spring, Stop & Stop plans to evict Sullivan's Toys and a number of other valued establishments between Newark and Ordway Streets, where every commercial space is currently full.

And what will replace them? In its application, Stop & Stop showed the Zoning Board the "indicative" retail it has in mind -- Pottery Barn, Godiva Chocolate, Border's -- all regional mall-type stores. There will be no specialty fish market, or probably Sullivan's, because StreetWorks made clear that nothing will be allowed to directly compete with Giant, which plans to sell even toys. (Now, perhaps the real estate mavens on this blog can figure out how Giant will reconcile all this aspirational upscaling of "Cathedral Commons" with the increasingly down-market quality of its stores, but that's a different question.) I don't really care about having a Pottery Barn or Godiva within walking distance, but I don't want to have to get in my car to go to the barber or buy a toy for a child's birthday party -- all things I can walk to now. Maybe that's growth, but it sure isn't "smart", or very useful.

Anonymous said...

Dear neighbor, yes, to build a new building you have to empty the current tenants. Sorry that's difficult for you to accept, but that's the nature of a lease, you give and receive a short term commitment on the property. The owners have a right to develop it, that's just fair.

Anonymous said...

Event Postponement:
I'm sure that the candidates heard loud and clear from their supporters and had serious second thoughts about being associated with the Cathedral Commons corporate event tomorrow. Good that Giant finally woke up and smelled the coffee.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the community is really aware of what 4000 additional cars a day will do to traffic (as stated in testimony at the hearings). 18 wheel trucks will be trying to navigate and pass each other on Idaho Avenue which is only 36 feet wide. My guess is that parking on Idaho will have to be eliminated to make this work. Finally, there is no parking for the commercial space in the North block. Patrons of those stores will park in the neighborhood rather than a block away in an underground parking lot...just as they do in Friendship Heights. Or worse, because parking will be such an issue, patrons won't come and the businesses will fail. Developing this site is not a bad thing in and of itself. It is this particular proposal which is over-developing the two blocks without properly addressing the shortage of loading docks, traffic and parking. This is not an urban development, it is a suburban development.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a similar battle years ago - probably by some of the same neighbors...They bought a house next to, or near the Cathedral and then complained about the bells. So we constructed baffles to muffle the noise on the north side of the bell tower. Sorry we did it - they got used to getting what they want...to the detriment of so many others (who LIKE the bell-ringing).

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a tall tale to me, but even if true, the analogy fails in the case of the Cathedral Commons Town Center. Anyone who purchased near the Macomb-Woodley commercial area could take some assurance in the existing zoning and the DC comprehensive plan -- which provided for low density commercial, with a "neighborhood-oriented" commercial overlay, an overlay that limited restaurants to 25% of linear foootage and a residential zone on Idaho Avenue. Giant Ahol's project effectively overturns the existing zoning and disregards the comprehensive plan via a one-shot PUD application, not even a zoning rule making.

The homeowners also took comfort from a 2002 agreement that Giant entered into with the Williams adminstration and the community, in which Giant agreed to build a new store within a defined footprint and not expand into the adjacent residential zone. Giant breached that agreement, by proceeding with its PUD.

The homeowners on Idhao who bought in a residential zone suddenly find themselves faced with a massive loading dock and access that is built in that residential zone and were told by Giant that they should take refuge from the truck noise behind storm windows! So no one bought next to the "nuisance" here -- the nuisance has come to them! And the 4,000 ADDITIONAL DAILY vehicle trips on neighborhood streets resulting from the "destination retail" and housing project is not trivial, nor are the additional 550resulting trips in Saturday peak hour alone.(By the way, the 4000 trips number comes from Giant's own data and Giant has never disputed it.) Giant's traffic study indicates that's over 500 more trips a day on already-busy Macomb Street and another 400 daily trips on Newark St., both immediately adjacent to the Catheral Commons Town Center. Hardly a few bells.

"This reminds me of a similar battle years ago - probably by some of the same neighbors...They bought a house next to, or near the Cathedral and then complained about the bells."

Anonymous said...

As DC residents continue early-voting in advance of Tuesday's Primary, it is important to note that Councilmember Phil Mendelson has not been a supporter of the redevelopment of the Giant site. He's been part of old-guard team supporting 1957 DC. The District desparately needs additional retail development and higher density residential on transit corridors such as Wisconsin Ave.

The Rosh Hashanah launch date was a little weird in my book. Next time Giant might need a better PR firm.

Ben said...

@Anonymous 10:19PM:

You're absolutely correct about Phil Mendelson opposing this project. Clark Ray, on the other hand, supports smart growth in the District, especially this project.

Clark Ray was formerly the Parks Director under Adrian Fenty and he has a long history of activism on issues of schools and public safety. Mr. Ray took time out of his busy schedule earlier this summer to meet with Ward 3 Vision, a group promoting smart growth and sustainable transportation in Ward 3 in NW Washington. He came across as a very intelligent and energetic person. After meeting with Mr. Ray, I am convinced that he will be an excellent advocate for sustainable transportation (streetcars throughout our city) and the kind of development that will attract new residents to our city-- expanding our tax-base and making our neighborhood streets more lively.

Here is a link for a video Clark Ray made about the need for more smart growth, citing the long-stalled Giant project on Wisconsin Avenue.


Anonymous said...

Clark Ray is being disingenuous. He told a number of people at a Cleveland Park community picnic last summer that, while he was generally a supporter of "smart growth," the Giant Ahold project had a number of problems that must be fixed before development moved forward. Indeed, his views expressed sounded pretty close to the concerns raised on this message board. Either he's a flip-flopper or he will say anything to get elected. Indeed, according to a McLean Gardens list serv, before he was fired as Parks director, he made various representations regarding moving a proposed dog park away from a playground and a community garden, and then did exactly the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Ten years and millions of dollars to build a groecery store and some apartments on Wisconsin Avenue - unbelieveable (and unsustainable as a business model). The message to the development commuity is that smart growth isn't smart business.

Anonymous said...

"Smart growth" has become such a buzz word that it has lost any real meaning. It would take a pretty dumb developer today not to label its project as "smart" growth.

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