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MidCity's 1,700-Unit Rhode Island Avenue Project Wins Court Ruling To Move Forward

A rendering of the first phase of MidCity's 1,700-unit RIA development in Northeast D.C.

After a nearly three-year delay, the 1,700-unit RIA development in Northeast D.C. has received a court ruling allowing it to move forward. 

A D.C. Court of Appeals panel Thursday ruled against an appeal that aimed to strip MidCity's project of its Zoning Commission approval, the Washington Business Journal first reported.

Minnie Elliott, the head of the Brookland Manor Brentwood Village Residents Association, filed the appeal in May 2018. 

The development, branded as RIA, is planned to replace the 20-acre, 575-unit Brookland Manor housing community at the intersection of Rhode Island and Montana avenues NE. It would include replacements for the 373 units of Section 8 housing that exist on the site. 

MidCity in 2015 received its Zoning Commission approval for the overall scale and housing mix of the 1,700-unit project, and in April 2018 it received its approval for the more detailed plan for the project's first phase.

The first phase of the project is planned to include a 200-unit, all-affordable senior building and a 131-unit affordable building set aside for existing Brookland Manor residents. The full development is also planned to include 181K SF of retail, potentially with a grocery store, and a public park. 

The construction site at 1400 Montana Ave. NE, photographed March 2021.

Thursday's ruling comes after a separate suit against the project was settled in March 2020, with a U.S. District Court judge ruling in MidCity's favor. That lawsuit, claiming the redevelopment discriminated against families at the property, was filed in 2016 by two neighborhood residents and advocacy group OneDC. 

Elliott's appeal argued the project didn't include enough affordable housing and family sized-units for the Brookland Manor residents and didn't comply with D.C.'s land use plans. 

MidCity Executive Vice President Jamie Weinbaum told the WBJ he has begun lining up financing for the project and hopes to break ground in early 2022. 

While it was waiting for the court to allow its RIA project to proceed, MidCity began construction on another development across the street. The developer in July 2018 acquired the property at 1400 Montana Ave. NE for $5.9M, and in May 2019 it received Board of Zoning Adjustments approval and finalized opportunity zone financing for the 108-unit project. 

In January, another group appealed a separate MidCity project in Shaw. The group, a partnership of two nearby churches, filed suit with the D.C. Court of Appeals to contest MidCity's plan for a 360-unit project at 1200 Fifth St. NW. The two cases are part of a wave of appeals that have caused significant delays for D.C. developments over the last four years.