Wisconsin Avenue is changing. There is nothing unusual or unseemly in this. Not much changed for many years, but now the region is growing, and Metro is in service. Sites that were either vacant or underutilized are being redeveloped. Unlike Bethesda, where growth was artificially stimulated by the so-called Bethesda Beauty Contest, Wisconsin Avenue's growth is the result of natural market forces.
The building under construction at 4000 Wisconsin Avenue is a "matter of right" project, not a rezoning project. It complies in all respects to the rules and regulations in effect to guide and control development.
But one would not gather that impression listening to those resisting the change. It is an attractive five-story building placed on 4.1 acres; the size of the building is entirely suitable to the large site. The building is complying with the same standards in effect for other properties with similar zoning.
Decisions as to what constitutes "good" or "bad" development are complex. They are, at best, the result of the careful balancing of relative importance of differing priorities and objectives. Generally, when there is disagreement, neither side is right or wrong. It is just that each side believes its priorities should be given more importance than another's.
In making these important decisions, it is right for the District government to provide space for employment and commercial needs of the city; to seek to facilitate the location of jobs within the District; to maintain (and increase) its tax base against the stiff competition of its suburban neighbors; to encourage architecturally significant projects with significant public amenities; and to make land-use decisions that benefiit the Metro system. The District's share of Metro's $250 million operating losses is staggering.
It is also right to seek to preserve and protect the residential neighborhoods. This does not include arbitrarily stopping the processes of change that created the neighborhoods in the first place. Traffic problems must and can be matched with traffic solutions. The interesting thing about traffic on Wisconsin Avenue is that 80 percent to 85 percent of it is through traffic. It would be there regardless of the changes now taking place.
And it is right that an owner of property should be able to use his property in accordance with the rules.
The real estate development industry, which built Wisconsin Avenue and the adjoining neighborhoods, is now on the hot seat for seeking to participate in the ongoing and natural change of this vital avenue. It was done right the first time. There is no reason to believe it will be different now. In fact, the controls now in place are more stringent and protective than ever.