Two bulldozers yesterday razed a wooded area near Glover-Archbold Park to make way for an access road to a nearly completed office building at 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW, culminating an 18-month legal battle between developers and a neighborhood group.
But the group, the Tenley and Cleveland Park Emergency Committee, vowed to obstruct work on the road that borders Van Ness Street until all legal means to prevent construction of the nearly completed five-story office building and the access road have been exhausted.
"We've lost this battle, but we haven't lost the war yet," declared Joel Odum, president of the community group, which has two appeals pending in appellate court.
The developers, Donohoe Construction Co. and Holladay Corp., said they will press on with the construction of the access road despite threats from protesters.
"I'm sorry to hear that they will do that," said Whayne Quin, the attorney for the developers. "We have a good legal case for it, and so we will continue with the building of the road."
Three members of the community group -- Peter Espenshied, Pete McDonald and Phil Mendelson -- were arrested yesterday morning and charged with unlawful entry after they attempted to block front-end loaders with their bodies. The charges were later dismissed.
Some members of the group plan to chain themselves today to several trees that have not yet been cut down, Odum said. Three members plan to obstruct work each day until the developers relent, he said.
"We're outraged that the city gave away this park to the developers and shut the community out of the process," Odum said.
Work began on the controversial access road after a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise between the community group and the developers broke down Sunday night.
The development companies offered to shift the access road 20 feet onto private property if the neighborhood group dropped its lawsuits, Quin said.
"We weren't asking for very much," Quin said. "They're not willing to give in on any point, which is not a good way to compromise."
Odum said there was no way the group could compromise on the park. "It looks like a bomb was just dropped there," Odum said, alluding to the section razed yesterday.
Work on the road began Thursday after the D.C. Court of Appeals lifted an order blocking work on the road. A week earlier, a D.C. Superior Court judge affirmed the developers' right to build the road.
However, work was halted when the city planning office called for the talks, which took place Thursday, Friday and Sunday.