Government Settles Suit With Developer for $2 Million

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The District government has agreed to pay $2 million to developer Herbert S. Miller to end two years of legal fighting after the city dropped his plan to build two condominium towers next to the Washington Nationals' ballpark.

Miller filed a $40 million lawsuit against the city in 2006 after the D.C. Council rejected the proposal to build the condos, along with shops and restaurants. Miller and then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) had promoted the project as the hub of a ballpark entertainment district that would attract fans and generate tax revenue for the city.

The Nationals' ownership group, headed by Bethesda developer Theodore N. Lerner, lobbied instead for two four-story parking garages. Council members, citing an analysis from Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, called Miller's plan financially risky.

Miller, whose company Western Development had been selected by the city as one of four master developers of the ballpark district, said in his suit that he had spent more than $5 million to develop his plans.

After Adrian M. Fenty (D) replaced Williams as mayor last year, however, Western Development was pressured to settle the case if it expected the administration's support on future projects. The company has been seeking city assistance to bring Nordstrom to the Georgetown Park mall.

Miller's son, Ben, who is president of the company, said yesterday that they wanted to "put this behind us." He added that the company will donate about $1 million of the settlement to charity.

As part of the settlement, the city will pay Western Development an additional $500,000 to settle a case involving Franklin School. Western had been developing the city-owned building into a hotel, but the Fenty administration halted the plan.

Sean Madigan, spokesman for Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for economic development, said: "Both of us are trying to get past this in good faith. They want to do good things in the city, and we want to move projects forward. We did not want to fight with each other."

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