Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Giant Supermarket Saga Continues...In Court

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals heard oral arguments yesterday in the lawsuit to block the Giant supermarket development at Wisconsin Avenue and Newark Street, NW.  The case is Wisconsin-Newark Neighborhood Coalition (WNNC) and 3300 Idaho Neighbors versus the DC Zoning Commission and Friendship-Macomb SC.)

According to DC Mud, WNNC is asking the court to overturn the Zoning Commission's unanimous approval of the Giant development project on the grounds that height and density are inconsistent with the neighborhood commercial overlay zoning.  DC Mud further reports that the petitioners want the city "to revise the PUD as a two-stage application," and declare that the Zoning Commission "lacked authority" to grant a PUD [planned unit development] within a neighborhood commercial overlay zone.

The battle over the Giant supermarket and residential-retail-office complex has been going on for over a decade. The lawsuit to thwart the Giant was filed last August. Most observers give the chance that a lawsuit will block the project near-zero odds of success. Indeed, plans are already underway to replace the dilapidated, 1950's supermarket with a modern store.

The project is supported by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the local ANC, former Mayor Fenty, current Mayor Gray, other elected officials, the Zoning Commission, and the vast majority of people who live in the Cleveland Park neighborhood, where the Giant is located.


  1. From reading the NW Current story, it doesn't seem like the case is so on-sided. Giant may very well prevail, but it looks like the court took it seriously.

  2. The Court does not have a "gate-keeper." Any jackass with some paper, ink and the filing fees can cost honest citizens a great deal of grief.

  3. Of course there is no gatekeeper, but the questions from the judges suggested, to me at least, that there may be some issues. I'm just going by what I read in the Current.

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

  5. Does Giant have a partner yet??? Financing??? I can't understand how they can move forward with the appeal pending. What lawyer would allow a client to invest with that risk (even a small one) out there?

  6. It's an exaggeration to say that the ANC supported Cathedral Commons. The ANC supported it, subject to some conditions, to mitigate the project's impact on the community. But then Giant spurned the conditions for the ANC's support. These conditions included:

    --additional parking for the block-spanning north structure. Giant refused to provide any commercial parking despite, stores planned for all sides of the building;
    --an agreement by Cathedral Commons that the buildings not participate in the residential permit parking program. This has become increasingly common in large projects in DC, where developers build less parking than what zoning requires. They agree, in turn, not to seek RPP, so that more cars from the development do not end up parked on already crowded local streets. Giant said no to this condition;
    --$500,000 escrow to mitigate traffic impact on local streets. Giant said no, and offered less than 1/5 of that amount.
    --Giant also promised to keep current businesses on site and to offer them future favorable rents, in exchange for winning more density and scale than what zoning permitted. But then Giant kept this commitment out of the written zoning order. The result: Sullivans Toys, the yoga studio, etc. will be evicted this year and they're not coming back.

  7. The ANC did support the Giant's project -- that's on the record. As for the conditions, it was the Zoning Board that decided not to require that Giant implement these conditions. The ANC is on the record as supporting the supermarket and development. Indeed, the ANC could rescind its support, but hasn't. Why? Because the ANC knows that the vast majority of neighbors want this project, as does the mayor, the former mayor, and Councilmember Cheh.