The Bozzuto Group has acquired a stake in a promising parcel of land that has been subject to one of the District’s longest-running development debates.
The Greenbelt-based homebuilder has been selected by Giant Food as a development partner for the grocer’s $125 million mixed-use project on Wisconsin Avenue Northwest, where it will attempt to finally break ground on plans that have been in the works since 1999.
Built more than 50 years ago, the 18,500-square-foot Giant store is out-of-date and sits on the main commercial corridor among some of the city’s toniest neighborhoods — Cathedral Heights, Cleveland Park and McLean Gardens.
Giant envisions the project, called Cathedral Commons, encompassing two blocks and featuring a new 56,000-square-foot Giant grocery store, 137 apartments, more than 500 parking spaces and nearly 70,000 square feet of other shops and restaurants.
The D.C. Zoning Commission easily approved zoning changes for the project more than two years ago, but that approval has been appealed by neighborhood opponents of the project, and the D.C. Court of Appeals has not made a decision.
For Giant, based in Landover, the deal is an opportunity to bring on a locally based development partner that can try its hand at uniting a community that has become badly frayed over the project.
It’s also a chance to rebuild a store that everyone agrees ought to be replaced; the new version would feature a florist, bakery, expanded international foods and full-service meat, seafood and deli departments. Since Giant first began discussing an update to the store, competitors — there are five competing grocers within two miles — have opened or updated their offerings.
“Giant is looking forward to the transformation of the current Wisconsin Avenue store into a vibrant urban destination for Cathedral Heights, Cleveland Park and the District,” said Anthony Hucker, Giant Food president, in a statement prepared by Giant and Bozzuto.
Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed. But for Bozzuto, the deal caps a competitive bidding process that lands them a roughly 4-acre site between Macomb Street and Idaho Avenue in a part of the District where available plots are hard to come by.
Since forming a $75 million apartment fund in a joint venture with Pritzker Realty last summer, Bozzuto and Pritzker have lined up 3,500 apartments in the Washington-Baltimore area, including a 720-unit project at Catholic University that broke ground in November and Union Wharf, a $72 million project in Baltimore.
Toby S. Bozzuto, president of Bozzuto Development, calls it the best development site he has ever acquired. His father, Tom Bozzuto, Bozzuto Group chief executive, said he was thrilled to create “a community that will offer the District neighborhoods of Cleveland Park and Cathedral Heights the best shopping, dining and housing yet,” in the joint statement with Giant.
The new development team, which also includes Baltimore-based Southside Investment Partners, hopes to begin construction in the spring of 2012 with a tentative opening date for the new Giant scheduled for late 2013.