Housing Complex

Wisconsin Avenue Giant Clears Final Legal Hurdle

Good to go!

The city's longest and most acrimonious fight over density has finally been resolved—and the densifiers won.

Not that there was really any question that those proposing to turn the one-story, mid-century Giant Foods on Wisconsin at Idaho Avenue NW into a mixed-use development called Cathedral Commons were right on the merits, when the Zoning Commission unanimously voted to approve the project back in 2009. The question, rather, was whether Giant would persevere through the delays to actually build the thing—it wouldn't be the only project to die after prolonged neighborhood intransigence.

A sign of confidence came last month, when super-solid homebuilder Bozzuto signed on as a backer. But the project still had a legal cloud hanging over it, in the form of a lawsuit argued in March. In a nutshell, the Wisconsin-Newark Neighborhood Coalition charged that the Zoning Commission didn't have the authority to remove a neighborhood zoning overlay, that the case should have gone before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, that the project conflicted with the city's Comprehensive Plan, and that the traffic study was bogus.

Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's ruling on all counts, clearing the project to move forward. Giant threw a "launch party" over a year ago; the groundbreaking probably won't be far away.

  • Urbanette

    Finally! It's about time.

  • rt

    Yessss!

  • http://tsarchitect.nsflanagan.net/ цarьchitect

    Fantastic news. Sustainable, rational development and community input prevail.

  • DC Guy

    Interestingly, the legal decision sets establishes, or clarifies some rules that many NIMBYs would probably prefer remain hazy.

    In all, a decisive decision.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    Hooray for sanity prevailing!

  • John Dollop

    This is great! yay!

  • Bert

    It's interesting that Giant has changed its tune about the project -- when they were seeking zoning approvals, they sold it as "neighborhood oriented retail" and specifically denied it would become a retail destination. Now their press releases say Cathedral Commons will be a District "destination." Hmmm.

  • JustMe

    As with Friendship Heights, I think this location would be much better served with a Pepco power station than with retail and such.

  • DC Guy

    @Bert

    Give it up. You lost. The city, and most local residents, won.

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  • Bert

    I guess Giant's promises and representations stink just like the rotten fish and produce they sell!

  • CJ

    I hope the legal precedents set in this case help future development proposals avoid protracted delays.

  • JustMe

    In my experience, hair splitting over "neighborhood oriented retail" and making a place a "destination" is just a distraction and an excuse used by NIMBYs to stymie a project, simply by claiming, that something "isn't neighborhood oriented!" Basically, that can be anything, and they'll drag up the claim after every single other one of their disingenuous objections gets shot down.

    Nice to see the good guys win one.

  • Bert

    Prediction: Cathdral Commons is built, but in less than 5 years McLean Garden (and parts of Cleveland Park) are effectively barricaded to thru traffic just like those fancy neighborhoods near downtown Bethesda.

    But everyone's going to walk to Cathedral Commons, anyway.

  • JustMe

    Bert, other than churchgoers on a Sunday morning, no one wants to schlep all the way out to the nether reaches of Cleveland Park if they don't have to. It's congested, inaccessible by metro, and out of the way.

    On the other hand, the area around the Cleveland Park metro station has seen its own development stymied, as well. I don't see any reason why the neighborhood associations and ANCs would do this unless they *wanted* more commercial activity on their stretch of Wisconsin Ave.

  • DC Guy

    Ah, but that is it, JustMe. They didn't want development on either street. They wanted the whole thing to be put under glass, never to change.

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