Donohoe Construction Co. and the Chevy Chase Land Co. plan to build a $90 million hotel, office and retail complex at Wisconsin and Western avenues NW, south of the new Friendship Heights subway station and across from Mazza Gallerie.
The eight- to 10-story structure would be the tallest in that Northwest neighborhood, where buildings are limited to six stories, and would replace two low-rise branches of National Savings and Trust and First American Bank.
But some residents of the area, opposed to the evolution of Friendship Heights into a downtown-like urban center, have organized to fight the developers in their quest for rezoning from the D.C. Zoning Commission.
When the area last was rezoned in 1974, community opposition led to a plan that allowed only low-rise development on the District side, and pushed all high-rise development up Wisconsin to Montgomery County.
The Donohoe-Chevy Chase Land proposal is the latest development in a building boomlet triggered by the arrival of Metro in September to Friendship Heights, which straddles the Washington-Montgomery line and has attracted a number of luxury shops in recent years.
In addition to office space, the new building would include a 200-room hotel, a high atrium covered with a glass dome, three levels of shops and 650 underground parking spaces.
Donohoe official William Vose said the height of the proposed building would not be out of line for the area, where high-rise buildings have long stood on the Montgomery side.
Across from the site, workers are completing a 13-story office building on top of the Metro station.
"I think most people will find the planned complex acceptable," he said. "Most will find it a showplace and when friends come to visit, they will be glad to show it off."
Virginia Sager Spevak, president of the Friendship Neighborhood Coalition, said the planned high-rise "was just clearly not acceptable to the people at all." Spevak, who is also chairman of a new ad hoc committee organized to negotiate with Donohoe, added: "It was simply just too big for the site."
She added, "There's a strong need for residential space. We don't need anymore luxurious shops. We have enough."
Stephen Posniak, the Advisory Neighborhood commissioner from the area where the development would be located, called the new proposal "a frontal attack on the zoning" that was developed for Friendship Heights previously.
District residents of the Friendship Heights area have always looked askance at the high-rise developments permitted on the Maryland side, saying they aggravate already serious traffic problems and increase air and noise pollution.
Since Friendship Heights has become highly developed, the Western-Wisconsin intersection has had among the highest recorded air pollution levels in the city.
Two years ago, to avoid a lengthy a court battle with neighborhood residents, Quadrangle Development Corp. abandoned plans to build a 273-room hotel on the Woodward & Lothrop Co. parking lot, just north of the city line.
Quadrangle now plans to build six-story twin office towers on the lot, said Robert Metz, attorney for the developer and the department store.
Donohoe representatives have tried to blunt the opposition to the latest proposal by meeting with residents to explain their development plans before they filed several weeks ago the rezoning application.
"I was heartened by the people there," Whayne Quinn, attorney for the developers, said about a recent meeting with residents who live on 43rd Street NW, behind the site of the proposed complex.
"They had good ideas about access. They liked the idea about tying into Metro and they wanted some input as to how the atrium activities would be conducted," Quinn said.
The city zoning commission is expected to determine in February if the proposal for rezoning merits a public hearing