The Donohoe Cos. and Holladay Corp. have proposed building two roads off upper Wisconsin Avenue NW to provide better access to a $40 million office and retail complex under construction at the site formerly occupied by Johnson's Flower Center, in the 4000 block of Wisconsin Ave. NW. One of the proposed roads would run south 350 feet from Van Ness Street NW, where it would abut the northern boundary of Glover-Archbold Park, and curve westward to connect with the second proposed road, a 530-foot extension of Upton Street NW, which now stops at Wisconsin Avenue. Approximately 100 feet at the interesection of the two roads would abut the park. A map that ran in last week's District Weekly incorrectly showed the proposed roads cutting through the northern tip of the park. Mayor Marion Barry suspended building permits for the roads last week to give residents of the area 30 days to comment on the proposed public streets. The city did not tell the residents about the road plans because the roads have been proposed on city maps since the 1920s. The mayor's decision to suspend the permits came less than a week after 40 people who live near the northern part of Glover-Archbold Park picketed at the park to protest the roads.
About 40 residents from upper Wisconsin Avenue NW staged a demonstration Sunday to protest plans by developers to build a road through the northern tip of Glover-Archbold Park to serve a new $40 million office and retail complex near Van Ness Street.
The demonstrators marched and carried picket signs at the site where the developers, the Donohoe Cos. and Holladay Corp., have staked out two short roads for the project, which would be built on the former site of the Johnson's Flower Center on Wisconsin Avenue between Upton and Van Ness streets NW.
One of the proposed roads would run south behind the Roy Rogers restaurant, touching the tip of Glover-Archbold Park, where it would meet a 530-foot extension of Upton Street, which now stops at Wisconsin Avenue.
People who live near the park said they are angry because the roads would intrude on the park and because neither city officials nor the developers notified them about the road project.
City officials say the roads have been shown on city maps as "dedicated streets" since the 1920s, and therefore no formal notice to residents of the construction project was necessary. The roads would be called Glover-Archbold Parkway and Upton Street.
Both are "dedicated rights of way, which means they're already streets in a legal sense," said Anne Hoey, the city's administrator of public space maintenance. "The city owns the land; it is technically street property."
Hoey said, "It probably would have been better to notify the ANCs Advisory Neighborhood Commissions ."
A spokesman for the developers said several neighboring Advisory Neighborhood Commissions were notified of the planned roads. The developers have scheduled a public meeting on the project for Feb. 18.
The 5,000-member Rock Creek section of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, met with lawyers this week and has threatened to go to court to try to halt construction of the roads, which began last weekend.
"We're mad as hell," said Joel Odum, who lives at 3941 Van Ness St. NW, across the street from the park. "The way I found out about the road was when I saw a [National] Park Service man removing the sign that says 'Welcome to Glover-Archbold Park.' "
The proposed five-story office/retail park, which would be built on a four-acre lot, is one of 12 developments that are planned or under construction along the northern Wisconsin Avenue corridor.
The developments range from large office buildings and hotels to small convenience stores and fast food outlets. One of the proposed projects calls for a 10-screen movie house at Wisconsin Avenue at Albermarle Street.
The Donohoe Cos. and Holladay Corp. say the new roads would help alleviate traffic congestion from their new project and would be used during construction for trucks entering the construction site.
After meeting with a few ANC representatives and residents Friday, the developers agreed to halt truck traffic temporarily on the roads.
City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), whose ward includes the project site, said, "It's unfortunate that there was no opportunity for the citizens to comment on this before it happened . . . . I was very upset that the city went ahead without some community consultation."
Shackleton said she wrote to Mayor Marion Barry and other city officials last week asking for revocation of the permits issued in August to build the road. Hoey said there would be no revocation.
Meanwhile, Jim Dougherty, head of the Potomac Chapter of the Sierra Club, said he has alerted the group's lawyers to be ready to file a temporary restraining order if the developers do not agree to continue the truck ban.
"I hate to say we're going to throw ourselves down in front of the trucks, but if that's what it takes we'll do it," Dougherty said.
"Unfortunately, I think it's much ado about nothing," said Whayne Quinn, the lawyer representing the developers. "Obviously, at some point the developers are going to need access to that road . . . . It's not park land for them to sue over."
The developers say they told neighbors about the roads, but ANC representatives disagree.
"We knew for months that there was something going on there," said Phil Mendelson, commissioner of the ANC that represents the area near the park.
"Every time we talked to the developer they told us they'd get back to us," Mendelson said.
Terry Eakin, senior vice president of the Holladay Corp., said he spoke "specifically with several of the ANC commissioners in 1985." Quinn said Peggy Robin, chairwoman of the ANC that represents the neighborhood, was one of the commissioners notified by Eakin.
"He never told me anything about the roads," Robin said, "and I know several people that Eakin told that no plans were going to be ready until the spring of 1986 . . . . It came as a complete shock to us."
"I think they objected to the surprise, and I'm sure it must come as a surprise that land they once thought was a park is going to be used for a road," Eakin said. " . . . The moment we heard they were upset I told them we would meet with any of [the citizens]."
The developers say they will pay for the cost of building the roads that will become public rights of way.