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Appeals Of 2 Union Market Projects Dropped, But 2 New Suits Filed Against Other Northeast Projects

The activist group that has appealed seven developments in the Union Market area is backing down on two of those lawsuits, allowing major projects to move forward that will bring over 1,400 residential units to the neighborhood.

But the pace of development-challenging appeals is not slowing down, with separate groups filing new cases over projects in the Northeast D.C. neighborhoods of River Terrace and Michigan Park. 

A rendering of the public plaza at Kettler's Market Terminal development

Union Market Neighbors Feb. 15 moved to dismiss its appeal of Market Terminal, Kettler's planned 1.25M SF development two blocks west of Union Market. The group had originally appealed the project Aug. 21. The D.C. Court of Appeals has not yet approved the motion to dismiss.

Kettler received Zoning Commission approval in July for the development, slated to include at least 800 units, retail, a potential hotel and an office component Carr Properties acquired in January. Kettler has not announced a timeline for construction and did not respond to requests for comment. 

The Union Market Neighbors group also moved to dismiss its appeal of Trammell Crow's Armature Works, a three-building development at 1200 Third St. NE. The dismissal, first reported by Curbed, was granted by the court Feb. 14, officially ending the case. Union Market Neighbors had first appealed that project Sept. 11.

Union Market Neighbors still has three outstanding appeals against projects in the area, including JBG Smith and Gallaudet's Sixth Street development, Foulger-Pratt's three-building Press House at Union District, and Edens and Great Gulf's 138-unit project at 1300 Fourth St. NE. An individual who has been affiliated with the group separately appealed LCOR's 280-unit project at LCOR's 530 Morse St. NE. Those four appeals, which are delaying nearly 2,500 units, appear to be continuing.

The first appeal the group filed, against Ditto Residential's 301 Florida Ave. NE, was dismissed by the court in November, 16 months after the case began. The appeal over Foulger-Pratt's project, filed in January 2017, was given a hearing before the court Feb. 7, but has yet to be decided. 

Chris Otten, a well-known activist who is working with Union Market Neighbors, declined to say why the group dropped the two appeals, but he did shed light on some of the motivation behind the efforts.

"The appeals seek remedy from the unlawful approvals of many downtown sized projects that will result in a segregated exclusive enclave at Union Market, the development of which flies in the face of the Mayor's rhetoric of building a so-called 'Inclusive city,'" Otten wrote in an email. 

"We are trying to do what the city isn't," Otten added. "That is protect existing neighbors from the bread and circus of overdevelopment of luxury hotels, housing and unnecessary high-priced retail."

A rendering of Trammell Crow/High Street Residential's three-building Armature Works project

Trammell Crow plans to break ground by year-end on Armature Works, which will bring 465 apartments, 170 condos, the 204-room James Hotel, 42K SF of retail and a public plaza to the site at Third and M streets NE. Trammell Crow Managing Director Campbell Smith said the company was excited to see the appeal dropped so it can move forward. 

"We pressed on and were advancing our construction drawings throughout the appeal, so we didn't really lose any time, which was important to us," Smith said.

The project's three buildings will be constructed simultaneously, and Smith expects the development to deliver by mid-2021. The plaza Trammell Crow is building for the project includes space for a new entrance to the NoMa Metro station, although the District has not yet approved the funds for the tunnel under the train tracks. 

Meanwhile, two new appeals have been filed in recent weeks against residential developments in other Northeast D.C. neighborhoods. 

A rendering of NDC's proposed 70-unit affordable housing development at 3450 Eads St. NE

A group of residents filed an appeal in late January against a senior affordable housing project at 3450 Eads St. NE in the River Terrace neighborhood. All of the development's 70 units would be set aside for those aged 55 and over who make up to 50% of the area median income.

The Zoning Commission approved Neighborhood Development Co.'s proposal in December. During the ZC process, 47 residents filed nearly identical letters in opposition, listing traffic and parking issues among their main concerns. The group that filed the appeal, River Terrace Neighbors for Community Minded Development, is represented by Aristotle Theresa, the same attorney who represents Union Market Neighbors. Theresa declined to comment. 

Neighborhood Development Co. CEO Adrian Washington said he had planned to break ground by March 2019 and hopes the appeal does not delay that timeline. While he said other cases have taken 12 to 18 months to reach a conclusion, he hopes the court is now able to move faster because it has dealt with so many similar appeals. 

"We think that we have a very strong case on the merits," Washington said. "We think our project conforms with the Comprehensive Plan for the area. We've met extensively with the community and offered what we think is a very generous package of proffers. We think, ultimately, the appeal is without merit and that we'll come out fine." 

A separate group filed an appeal Friday of EYA's 82-unit townhouse project in Northeast D.C.'s Michigan Park neighborhood. The development would be built next to the St. Josephs Seminary at 1200 Varnum St. NE. The Zoning Commission approved the project Jan. 25 after a contentious process in which over 40 letters of opposition, and over 100 letters of support, were filed. The group appealing the project is named Residents for Reasonable Development of St. Josephs and is represented by David Brown. 

These appeals have become increasingly frequent in recent years, after the D.C. Court of Appeals vacated the approvals of two major mixed-use developments, the McMillan Sand Filtration site and 901 Monroe St. NE. Thirty appeals have been filed since the McMillan approval was vacated in December 2016.

Since the start of 2013, when 901 Monroe was first blocked, 68 total appeals have been filed, compared to 28 appeals between 2000 and 2012.