A report from attendee Gabe Fineman, as posted to the Cleveland Park listserv:
Notes from the December 11, 2006 Meeting on Giant [Having trouble reading this because all mail on the List is in Plain
Text format? You can download a Word copy from http://www.cpposts.com/Docs/Other/061211_Giant_Meeting.doc]
So, is Giant going to expand their store at Newark Street? Yes, they will, but it will be part of a major redevelopment project. This meeting was sponsored by the ANC and the Cleveland Park Citizens Association but run by Giant. It was held in at the Washington Hebrew Congregation (Macomb and Massachusetts) and was a very amicable progress report. The room was very large and easily seated the 150 people who came. A very large crowd, considering that there was much less pre-publicity than last time. I had expected more publicity, including using the signup sheet from the previous meeting and the addresses of the people who left questions on the Giant site (http://www.wisconsinavegiant.com) to send e-mail notices.
So, what is going to be built? Substantially what they told us in February. Giant (now Ahold's) owns the most of the block where it is located and the entire block to the north where the Pharmacy is located. Giant invested major bucks to buy the real estate years ago and now Ahold will develop it and get the profit out. In the process, we get a much larger supermarket. Everything will be knocked down and rebuilt (first the block to the south and then the block to the north). They will go from the current store of 28,000 sq ft (including the pharmacy) to a store of 65,000 sq ft (40,000 sq ft sales space), doubling the
size. This will make it larger than the store at Van Ness. The other retail space is dropping somewhat from 86,000 sq ft to 72,000 sq ft (Murphy's space being reduced). This is all being financed with 162,000 sq ft (about 144 units) of residential space. This is all accomplished by building down (a two story garage [400 cars] and another one story garage [88 cars] under the buildings) and building up the north building to five stories. The actual buildings will get much larger and cover the
old parking lots.
So, what did they tell us in February? At the only other public meeting by Giant (notes at www.cpposts,com) they told us:
1. The Giant Store will be expanded to be about the size of the current store plus Murphy's
2. The store will be moved back from Wisconsin Avenue to make room for some small retail shops on Wisconsin.
3. There will be a 400 car underground parking lot under the stores with a direct entrance to the Giant as well as an entrance to the street behind the Giant. The lower level of the garage will be available for public parking to serve the nearby restaurants.
4. The block north of the current store (including the bank that is leased by Giant) will be transformed into retail on the first floor and residential on the second and perhaps a third floor.
5. The property facing Idaho Avenue will become residential houses or condos.
So, what has changed since February?
1. There will be an additional garage under the north block restricted to its tenants.
2. Instead of 2 floors of residential, there will be 4 floors plus residential over some of the stores in the south block.
3. They intend to subsidize the current tenants in the north block (but not Starbucks or the bank) as long as they are in the south block that will have a (new) second floor above the retail. That is, a new building at a destination location would usually get much higher rents than in the current shabby building next to a 'moribund' Giant, but they will keep the current rents for the current tenants that can not afford market rates.
4. Details about the traffic patterns. The traffic study will not be ready for another three months.
So, what is the next step? They are a long way from approval for the project - they estimate another year. There are a myriad of regulations (zoning, overlays, height restrictions, density restrictions) to be overcome. They plan to do this with the Planned Unit Development method to be approved by the zoning board. Once they get approval, it will be another year to build the south block with the supermarket and a year after that to build the north block.
So, what was the reaction to all this? Overwhelming support for Giant to do what ever it wanted, just so it hurried up and rebuilt the supermarket. One person said she wanted a smaller, local store and the audience resoundingly told her no. A person who said he was the new ANC commissioner (taking office in January) said he knew of no one who wanted an additional 160 housing units in their neighborhood was greeted with many people saying they did not care. Giant responded that there are many large residential buildings within a block or two with more than 100 units and this was not such a major addition.
So, what will happen? My prediction is that there will be slow but steady progress and we will see construction in about two years. If Ahold were to sell of the north block and this were a regular developer, we would see a 200-300 unit building with no underground parking and no input from the community. Developments of this scale happen because so much money is involved. We are fortunate that Giant sees this as a long term proposition and not a property to be built and flipped. Because of that they seem willing to listen to the community and make changes to the traffic, the streetscape and even subsidize tenants.
More Information? They promised to post the slide shows on their web site (wisconsinavegiant.com) this week. However, it took four months after the last meeting.
Disclaimer and Such. As always, these are the personal notes of Gabe Fineman and not the minutes of the ANC. They reflect my biases and viewpoints that I make no attempt to hide.