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Friday, November 12, 2010

WBJ: DDOT has issues with Abdo's Brookland/Edgewood project road-related plans

See this Washington Business Journal article on the Jim Abdo Brookland/Edgewood project.

Transportation officials don`t like route Brookland project is taking

Premium content from Washington Business Journal - by Michael Neibauer

Date: Thursday, November 4, 2010, 1:57pm EDT.


Few major projects have coasted through the District`s complex development process like Abdo Development LLC`s 8.9-acre, mixed-use mammoth that will connect the Brookland and Edgewood neighborhoods.

However, the D.C. Department of Transportation, one of the last bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared, has become an unpleasant, if not unexpected, bump in the road.

DDOT detailed its opposition to a half dozen roadway-related pieces of the Northeast D.C. project in an Oct. 20 memo to the D.C. Office of the Surveyor. The challenge, which the department describes as procedural, has nonetheless slowed an otherwise fast-moving redevelopment that promises to transform the neighborhoods.

It`s been relatively smooth sailing for the $225 million development on the former south campus of The Catholic University of America, where Abdo is working with Bozzuto Development Co. and Pritzker Realty.

The project is expected to include 800-plus residential units, 45 townhouses, close to 85,000 square feet of retail, 27 artist studios and exhibit space. A tunnel will link the project with the Brookland/CUA Metro station.

The planned-unit development application has the D.C. Zoning Commission`s approval and a thumbs up community groups. It is backed by Mayor-elect Vincent Gray.

But developers still need the council`s OK to close portions of streets and adjust rights of way — the legally granted access to property owned by someone else — to make room for construction and realigned intersections. That`s where DDOT comes in.

The agency has problems with all but one of the developers` road-related plans, although DDOT doesn`t want its written opposition to be seen as actual opposition.

``In the world of street closures, the legal counsel is that we must write our reports to `object until and unless,``` wrote Karina Ricks, associate director for the DDOT`s Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration, in an e-mail. ``Although the report, at first reading, very much sounds like an objection, it is not.``

Legislation before the council would authorize the creation of a right-turn lane at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, realignment of the Seventh Street and Michigan intersection into a T-intersection at the entrance to the university, development of a public square at Michigan and Monroe featuring a clock tower and fountain, and the redevelopment of Eighth Street from Monroe to the Michigan Avenue viaduct as a pedestrian-only walkway that ends in a public piazza.

But those plans, developers say, mean closing portions of Monroe, Seventh and Eighth streets and Bunker Hill Road, removing some public land from D.C.`s long-term highway plan and dedicating some public property on Monroe to the right-turn lane.

Ricks told the surveyor she opposes all but one of those plans for reasons including roadway design issues and traffic impacts. The developers responded in testimony before the council that the roadway changes are critical and ``we will not be able to satisfy`` several DDOT objections.

The parties say this back-and-forth won`t kill the deal even if it does add delays.

The DDOT is ``very supportive of the development plan,`` Ricks said, but legally the agency has to oppose it. Abdo will have to file more material to satisfy the concerns, Ricks said, such as establishing an easement to ensure the department retains the ability to maintain the Michigan Avenue bridge.

Toby Millman, Abdo`s vice president of project development, agreed that DDOT`s opposition is a matter of course. The agency, he said, doesn`t have a another word in its legal toolbox to denote ``concern.`

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