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D.C. Claims Eminent Domain To Seize Infamous NoMa Wendy's Site

D.C. is using eminent domain to seize the Wendy's property in NoMa as part of a plan to transform the notorious "Dave Thomas Circle" intersection.

The Wendy's property at 100 New York Ave. NE

The District government filed an eminent domain case in D.C. Superior Court last month against the owner of the Wendy's property at 100 New York Ave. NE, an affiliate of Bernstein Management Corp. D.C. is paying the owner $13.1M for the property, according to a Monday filing in the Recorder of Deeds.

District Department of Transportation interim Director Everett Lott, in an emailed statement to Bisnow, said this action represents a key part of the transformation effort.

"This is an important milestone in DDOT’s ongoing efforts to make a notorious intersection safer and easier to navigate for the thousands of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists who travel through this corridor every day," Lott said. "Over the coming months, we look forward to working with key community stakeholders to complete this process and the design of the new intersection at Florida Avenue and New York Avenue."

Bernstein didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The Wendy's sits on an 18K SF plot of land in the center of the intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, First Street, Eckington Avenue and O Street NE. Nicknamed Dave Thomas Circle for the founder of Wendy's, it is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. 

The intersection ranks in the city's top 10 most hazardous for total number of crashes, and 80% of its crashes were sideswipe or rear-end crashes, indicating driver confusion with navigating the unusual intersection, lawyers for D.C.'s Office of the Attorney General said in the court filing. 

A rendering of the proposed redesign of NoMa's "Dave Thomas Circle" intersection.

The court filing, signed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, said that the property seizure is part of the District's plan to transform the intersection to make it safer. D.C. included $35M in its fiscal year 2021 budget for acquisition, design and construction of the project, the Washington Business Journal reported in October. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser released a statement Monday evening, after Bisnow first reported the land seizure, detailing the plans for the property and saying construction is expected to begin in Q1 2022. 

“Almost every Washingtonian has their own Dave Thomas Circle horror story," Bowser said in the release. "Now, we are taking the necessary actions to transform this confusing intersection into a multimodal project that supports the current and future needs of D.C. drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians."

The District is working with the NoMa Parks Foundation, SWA/Balsley, Parker Rodriguez Inc., Jean Efron Art Consultants LLC and CM Kling & Associates Inc. on the transformation project. The team brought a proposed design to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in October. 

The CFA approved a redesign Nov. 19 after the team made some changes, including the removal of a previously proposed sculpture on the Wendy's site. The planned redesign would cut a new road through the property to connect First Street NE with Eckington Place, add two-way traffic to First Street NE and Florida Avenue NE and add protected bike lines. The plans would would create three separate parks, including one across New York Avenue from the property. 

NoMa Parks Foundation President Robin-Eve Jasper told Bisnow Tuesday that she sees the move as a major step for the neighborhood's economic development. She said the intersection transformation project will better connect NoMa to the growing Eckington neighborhood to the north.

"The design of the public spaces is extraordinary and has created an outcome, when built, that is going to be an exponential win for the city," said Jasper, the longtime head of the NoMa Business Improvement District. "We're not just fixing a messed up traffic circle that is dangerous, we're creating a bridge between neighborhoods, a place for residents to spend time and a new gateway at the edge of the commercial downtown."

UPDATE, FEB. 2, 10:15 A.M. ET: This story has been updated with comments from Mayor Muriel Bowser and NoMa Parks Foundation President Robin-Eve Jasper, and with updated information on the proposed redesign.