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HomeArchitectureYears pass, and finally a NW District apartment project can move forward

Years pass, and finally a NW District apartment project can move forward

Washington Construction News staff writer

An apartment building in Northwest DC can finally move towards construction almost a decade after developers initially conceived and proposed the idea.

Yet the redevelopment of the vacant Superfresh grocery store still needs to overcome financing challenges — as costs have risen and market conditions changed since Valor Development proposed the project at 4430 48th St. NW in 2016.

Following complaints about the project’s size, the developer revised the application scaling it back — and the district’s Zoning Commission approved it in February, 2020.

However, Bisnow reports that five months after this decision, several neighborhood groups appealed the decision, stalling the development until now.

The D.C. Court of Appeals last week denied a petition for a rehearing from opponents of the project at 4430 48th St. NW. The court in October affirmed the Zoning Commission’s approval of the project.

“The developers are now looking to secure financing to move forward with the construction of the approved project, which would consist of 219 multifamily units and 19,000 sq. ft. of retail, including a grocery store, in a building with a maximum height of 43.5 ft.” Bisnow reported on April 2.

Mill Creek Residential Managing Director Peter Braunohler, whose firm was brought onto the project as a joint venture partner in 2018, said the delay has been costly development, named The Ladybird.

“Market conditions have changed dramatically since the Zoning Commission approved the project in 2019, including significant increases in the cost of construction and escalation in lending rates,” he wrote in an email to the business publication. “Our goal is that the pieces fall into place and we are able to secure a construction loan later this year, which we will need to start demolition of the existing structures.”

The Superfresh grocery store on the site closed in 2013, and the vacant retail building would be demolished as part of the development. A neighbouring site, the Spring valley Shopping Centre, was included in the application because of its unused density — but the shopping center won’t be affected by the project.

The four parties that  contested the project’s approval in a July 2020 petition to the D.C. Court of Appeals were: Citizens for Responsible Development, Neighbors for a Livable Community, Spring Valley-Wesley Heights CA and Marilyn Richert.

“The groups argued that the Zoning Commission improperly allowed the developer to utilize unused density from the neighboring retail site,” Biznow reported. “But the court in its October ruling pointed to past cases in which such density transfers were allowed as long as the commission saw a public benefit, and it concluded that the project met that standard.”

“Ultimately, the Commission reasonably concluded, based on substantial evidence in the record, that developing the land as a (planned-unit development) would be superior to what could be developed as a matter of right with respect to housing, sustainability, urban design, and historic preservation,” the court’s ruling says. “In the circumstances here, we will not second-guess this conclusion.”

That ruling, filed in October but not previously reported, was affirmed last week when the court denied the opponents’ petition for a rehearing.

Valor Development principal Will Lansing said the team hopes to begin construction late this year.

“We are excited to have this part of the process come to an end and have the ability to get to work on what our team; through it’s collaboration with the neighborhood and other stakeholders, set out to do many years ago,” he said in an email to Biznow. “The next steps aren’t easy as this delay has caused a series of changing market conditions where both construction pricing and interest rates are higher than they were when we began.”

Mark Buckshon
Mark Buckshonhttps://washingtonconstructionnews.com
Mark Buckshon is the publisher and interim editor of Washington Construction News. He is also president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He combines a journalism and business background, and has published construction trade publications for more than 30 years, after an earlier career in journalism, which culminated when he lived through the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1978-80 as a sub-editor for the Bulawayo Chronicle and a correspondent for a Canadian news service.


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