Virginia Village pitched for mixed-use redevelopment

NEWS   |   October 10, 2019

Leesburg, VA

Virginia Village | Leesburg, VA

Loudoun County has seen a surge in mixed-use development over the last few years, but that boom generally hasn’t included the town of Leesburg — until now.

A developer with a long history in the county, Keane Enterprises, is now advancing plans for the redevelopment of the aging Virginia Village shopping center into a mix of residential, retail and office space. The 18-acre strip mall has been a staple of the town dating back to the mid-1950s, and sits just a short walk from Leesburg’s historic downtown area.

Keane bought the property in 2017, and has been at work ever since drawing up plans to transform Virginia Village into a mixed-use space. The developer submitted plans to the town in late September for a development including up to 490 apartments, around 160 townhomes and condos, 105,000 square feet of office and 70,000 square feet of retail.

The town has tweaked its zoning rules over the last few years to allow for just this sort of mixed-use development, particularly as the sections of Loudoun along the Silver Line extension have seen massive growth. But Keane’s application will be a first for Leesburg, a factor that is sure to complicate the developer’s vision.

“This is a big thing for Leesburg, in terms of the size of it,” said Brian Cullen, Keane’s founding principal. “Hopefully this helps them understand how to better develop in this sort of way. That’s what they say they want and I think they’re going to need it.”

Cullen has kept his eye on the town’s growth over the years while working elsewhere in the county — his firm developed the Ashburn Ice House and the Willowsford community nearby in Aldie — and he’s become increasingly convinced that Leesburg is ready to move away from its “automotive-oriented” past.

He believes some townhomes built near the downtown core of Market Street have invigorated local shops and restaurants, and he’s heard anecdotally that town officials are eager to see more of that sort of development nearby. While Leesburg isn’t Metro accessible, Cullen nonetheless wants to embrace the sort of walkable ethos driving transit-oriented developments.

Considering the lack of apartment developments in the area, he foresees many service workers who are driving into town moving into such a development, rather than having to live in far-flung exurbs like Winchester or Charlestown, West Virginia. He hopes that will help many people walk to work, and further revitalize Leesburg’s downtown.

“We’ve got to be complementary to downtown, not competitive with downtown,” Cullen said. “It’s got to be frictionless to move in and out of those things in nonautomotive ways.”

While shops and restaurants will certainly be a big part of the new Virginia Village — Cullen envisions something like a gym standing alongside a variety of other eateries and retail — Keane is pitching open space as the main draw. The development is set to include two different parks at the center of the retail and residential buildings, in addition to an outdoor amphitheater that connects with a bicycle and pedestrian bridge stretching over to nearby Harrison Street.

“There’s really nowhere for people to just go hang out, outdoors,” Cullen said. “You want to be the place where, when people’s parents come to town, this is where they go.”

Despite Cullen’s praise for walkability and open space, the development will still be fundamentally a car-dependent one — the five-story mixed-use buildings will be built around structured parking garages, with a total of 1,450 spaces in all. Naturally, Cullen expects that will generate community concerns about traffic.

“That’s the immediate fear that people have,” Cullen said. “It’s local politics, the 10, 15, 20 people who town council members might hear from every day that make a difference.”

But, in general, he’s optimistic the plans will be well received. Cullen’s been careful to work closely with the Ours family, who built the shopping center, to embrace the site’s history, and he’s been making the rounds at community gatherings.

He hopes to have the town’s approval for the redevelopment by the second or third quarter of 2020, setting up a groundbreaking on the first phase by 2022. He plans to move west-to-east across the site, starting work on a second phase (which would include the pedestrian bridge) by 2025.

That approach would allow him to help any business in the existing shopping center remain on the property as the development continues, moving into one phase as he demolishes the rest.

In fact, Cullen says Virginia Village still has an occupancy rate in the high-90% range, so it’s not as if it’s struggling. But he sees so much potential in redeveloping that he’d much rather pursue that approach than simply keep leasing it as is.

“They’re not killer rents,” Cullen said. “We could continue to lease it if we needed to, but it’s not the best use of the property.”

NEWS   |   October 9, 2019

Charlotte, NC

Atherton Mill | Charlotte, NC

When the Republican National Convention convenes in Charlotte, North Carolina next year, more than a few attendees will step on the light rail adjacent to the Convention Center and head to the South End for craft beer, fine dining, wine bar hopping, to stroll shops or to stand in line for freshly churned ice cream.

Yet, only a few years ago Charlotte’s South End was an abandoned mill town dotted with empty factories.

“The area grew up around the railroad, which brought large mills and smaller industrial uses like machine shops,” says Megan Liddle Gude, Director of Historic South End, a department of Charlotte Center City, a non-profit devoted to the development of the city’s urban core.

“By the 1960s, manufacturing left, and the area was in decline. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, art galleries and design businesses began to occupy some of the old mills.”

Gude points out that the rail line that brought industry to the South End in the first place also spurred the area’s renaissance.

“After obtaining the right of way on either side of the old train tracks, the city established a light rail line in 2007.”

A wide pedestrian-friendly swath with great views of Charlotte’s dramatic skyline, the right of way has become a favorite place to stroll, sit, jog or people-watch. It also houses a number of public art installations. And the once-decaying industrial buildings see new uses as a new young population moves into the area.

Today, the one-square-mile South End is the single fastest growing apartment submarket in the United States.

“In 2000, the area had 500 residents,” Gude says. “Today, there are 11,000 residents and 6,600 new housing units.”

One of the places where people will live is at the Atherton Mill, a mixed-use development on the site of a former textile mill.

“We have 115,000 square feet of retail, including the historic mill and trolley barn,” says Lyle Darnall, managing director of Edens, who is developing the property. “There will be 345 apartment units and 36 live-work spaces. We also provide space for Charlotte’s farmer’s market.”

Edens’ environmental budget exceeded $1 million. The state of North Carolina helped with the remediation of the property, which included removing oils and chemical contaminants from the soil under the mill building and replacing factory floors that had been soaked with coal tar resin.

“We replaced the floors with the same kind of end-grain wood blocks,” Darnall says. They look just like the original, but there is no off-gassing or smell.”

The Lance Packaging Company, which makes peanut products, was headquartered in a beautiful red brick building in the South End before moving into a more spacious facility. Today, the building houses condominium lofts on the upper floors and, at street level, Lincoln’s Habadashery, where chef Michael Shortino crafts sandwiches named  after things like the Thirteenth Amendment.

“It will set you free!” Shortino says. At Futo Buta Ramen, located at the edge of the light rail trail, he serves up steaming bowls of freshly made noodles in a flavorful broth.

The former Nebel’s Knitting Mill, built in 1927, now is called the Design Center and is home to local favorites like Superica, a Tex-Mex restaurant, and Pepperbox Doughnuts. Nearby, C3Lab provides co-working space to artists, designers, entrepeneurs, freelancers and other creative types. Business is booming: the owners are expanding into neighboring buildings.

The energy in this part of the city is palpable. Perhaps some of next years’ conventioneers won’t find their back.

NEWS   |   October 7, 2019

Reston, VA

construction projects Reston Halley Rise | Reston, VA

The massive mixed-use development that will bring a Wegmans and Pinstripes near the future Reston Town Center Metro station is underway.  Bisnow/Jon Banister Brookfield executives, partners and local leaders celebrating the Halley Rise groundbreaking Brookfield Properties celebrated the groundbreaking Monday for Halley Rise, a $1.4B project on the site of a 36-acre Reston office park.  The development’s first phase, scheduled to deliver in 2022, will feature 640 residential units, 450K SF of office and 200K SF of retail. The retail will be anchored by Wegmans, which is bringing its smaller urban grocery store concept to the project, and Pinstripes, a restaurant with a bowling alley and bocce court. The developer says the project will also feature a movie theater, a fitness retailer, and more food and beverage and entertainment users. Additionally, the project will create new public streets and two new parks. Arts Brookfield will curate cultural programming.  Bisnow/Jon Banister The Optimus Ride demonstration during the Halley Rise groundbreaking In February, Brookfield announced a partnership with Optimus Ride to bring its self-driving vehicles to the project. Optimus Ride has already begun giving rides to the tenants of the property’s two existing office buildings. Brookfield Executive Vice President Greg Meyer said Optimus Ride has given 15,000 rides in its first five weeks of service.  “It’s going to be not only something that distinguishes this project from our competitors, but something that helps address the issue of how do you move from space to space,” Meyer said. “The answer can’t just be cars. It has to be a lot of different things, and we think Optimus Ride and their autonomous vehicles are a really important part of that.” Brookfield Properties A rendering of Brookfield’s Halley Rise development in Reston The development of the 36-acre office park had previously been branded as Reston Crescent and had called for three new office buildings totaling 1M SF surrounded by surface parking. But with the Silver Line Phase 2 bringing a new Metro station 500 feet from the property, Brookfield decided to instead pursue mixed-use development.  “The plan is now to build a community, and a community means a lot more than one use,” Meyer said.  At full build-out, Halley Rise is slated to include 1.5M SF of offices, 250K SF of retail and 1,500 residential units, 15% of which would be set aside as affordable. Brookfield is working with several architects on the project, including Morris Adjmi Architects, MV+A, Eric Colbert & Associates, Hacker, Allied Works, Fox Architects and KPF.  Halley Rise is not the only major mixed-use development moving forward near the Reston Town Center Metro station. Boston Properties, the developer behind Reston Town Center, is also building Reston Gateway, a 1M SF office project anchored by Fannie Mae. JBG Smith is building the second phase of RTC West, a 1.3M SF development with a mix of office, residential and retail.

NEWS   |   September 23, 2019

Reston, VA

Wegmans Block F Halley Rise | Reston, VA

Self-driving vehicles will play a role in a massive new development on the boards for Northern Virginia.

Brookfield Properties has announced that the first phase of the Halley Rise development off the Dulles Access Road and Reston Parkway (map) is breaking ground in October. The 36-acre Reston development will deliver 1,500 residential units along with 1.5 million square feet of office, 250,000 square feet of retail, — including a Wegmans grocery store — and five acres of open space.

One of the most interesting things about the new development, however, is its use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for circulation throughout the site. In June, AV technology company Optimus Ride began deploying three self-driving vehicles in the office park formerly known as Reston Crescent to shuttle employees between their office buildings to parking lots within the site.

Employees can reserve rides or summon rides on demand from the AVs, which solely operate interior to the Halley Rise development. Optimus Ride will demonstrate the AV shuttle program at the groundbreaking event.

The Wegmans-anchored first phase of the development is expected to deliver in 2022. Morris Adjmi Architects is the master planner and MV+A Architects designed the first phase.

NEWS   |   September 11, 2019

Washington, DC

Georgia Avenue Engine Co 22

A development team is pursuing a new grocery-anchored mixed-use project on Georgia Avenue, dependent on gaining control of a former firehouse the District owns.  Neighborhood Development Co. and Marcus Asset Group presented plans to the Brightwood Community Association Tuesday for a mixed-use development, branded as Georgia Crossing, near the intersection of Georgia and Missouri avenues.  The project is planned to include over 300 apartments, with a portion of them set aside as affordable. It would also include up to 40K SF of retail, including up to 22K SF for a grocery store.  “The community has been incredibly supportive of what we’ve had to show them,” Marcus Asset Group’s Colin Thomas said. “The project can be a transformative one that can add momentum for development in the neighborhood.”

President, Donohoe Hospitality The development team owns a series of parcels totaling about 70K SF of land area on both sides of the D.C.-owned Old Engine Company 22 firehouse at 5760 Georgia Ave. NW. D.C. relocated the firehouse last year to the Parks at Walter Reed development, and in March it previewed an upcoming request for proposals for the quarter-acre former firehouse property.  The proposed Georgia Crossing project would preserve the firehouse’s facade, and its feasibility is dependent upon the team winning the RFP and gaining control of the site. D.C. said in March it planned to put out the RFP this summer, but it has yet to be released.  The team’s ownership of the adjacent properties on either side of the firehouse likely gives them an advantage in the RFP process. Monument Realty in July won the RFP for a 1-acre city-owned property in NoMa that sits next to a development site it already owned.  “We think our development aligns with the city’s stated goals, and we’re hoping that they see eye to eye with us in helping achieve those goals with this development,” said Marcus Goodwin, who joined Neighborhood Development Co. from Four Points this year after running for D.C. Council last year.  The team has been in talks with potential grocers, and Thomas said Aldi has expressed interest in the project. Because the project would sit in the middle of a block and would preserve the firehouse facade, providing the loading infrastructure for a grocery store could be difficult, Thomas said. But there is precedent for mid-block grocery stores in new D.C. projects, such as the Trader Joe’s at the Louis on 14th Street.  The project would be the first new multifamily development of over 200 units in Northwest D.C.’s Brightwood neighborhood since the Rittenhouse Apartments in 1990, according to CoStar data the development team presented. The site is roughly 1 mile north on Georgia Aveue of the Petworth and Park View neighborhoods, which have experienced significant development in recent years. “The community agrees with what Mayor Bowser’s administration has set forth — that great corridors like Georgia Avenue should be emphasized with more retail investment and housing opportunities,” Goodwin said. “We know that the high traffic along Georgia Avenue makes it an attractive corridor for retailers.”

NEWS   |   August 27, 2019

Washington, DC

Incentive Program Anacostia Penn Branch

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to see more city agencies move east of the Anacostia River as part of a bid to boost grocery-anchored developments in Wards 7 and 8.

Bowser issued an executive order Thursday directing District officials to give preference to historically underinvested communities east of the river as they search for new office space. The mayor is hoping the change will send an influx of city employees to developments still working to get off the ground, giving retailers more confidence that they can invest in these projects.

The order allows agencies to consider any space in Wards 7 and 8, but it directs officials to give “strong preference” to developments that include new grocery stores and other retail.

District leaders have worked for years to bring more full-service grocers east of the river, considering the current dearth of options there — there are currently only three stores between the two wards — and Bowser reasons that driving more potential customers to these developments will drive market interest in each one. Skyland Town Center is currently on track to land a Lidl in the coming years, but other major projects, from the District-backed St. Elizabeth’s East redevelopment to Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners’ Shops at Penn Hill, are still open for potential grocers.

“We have a responsibility to consider how we can best support our neighborhoods and communities,” Bowser said in a statement. “No longer can we wait for these opportunities to be identified when we can use the District’s leasing power in underinvested areas to attract retail and provide services, and encourage others to do the same.”

Bowser’s move also comes as the District prepares to prioritize leasing space for its workers, moving away from owning its own buildings. As of now, the city employs about 37,000 people, split across 3.9 million square feet of owned space and 3.2 million square feet of leased space, according to Bowser’s order.

District officials expect that one of the biggest impacts will be on the agencies currently operating out of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 2000 14th St. NW.

The city is gearing up for a comprehensive study of the building’s future, charting out a new path for the nearly 30-year-old center on the U Street corridor. The District expects to examine possibilities for Reeves ranging from a conversion to a mix of office and retail, or switching it to hotel and residential.

The analyze will consider the possibility that District workers could return to Reeves someday, should it include office space, but officials expect they’ll at least need to move out while a modernization is underway. That will precipitate the need for new leased space, with the search subject to Bowser’s new requirements.

However, in the near term, the District’s Department of General Services expects to kick off a search for 200,000 square feet for a city agency. Officials plan to release the details of that process later this month.

Bowser’s order also directs DGS to work up a report describing all District-held leases that are set to expire within the next five years, and any new needs for space they believe will crop up over the same time period. The agency will need to issue that report on Oct. 15 and April 15 of each year moving forward.

NEWS   |   August 27, 2019

Washington, DC

McMillan Sand Filtration | Washington, DC demolition

Opponents of the long-stalled McMillan Sand Filtration Plant redevelopment are furiously insisting that demolition has started at the site — but District officials say that is not the case.

Activists fighting the project, one of the most delayed development efforts in D.C. history, spotted construction equipment at the McMillan property last week and began circulating emails and news releases claiming that it marked the beginning of efforts to tear down historic buildings on the 25-acre, city-owned property at Michigan Avenue and First Street NW.

Opponent Friends of McMillan Park said it asked for a court injunction aimed at blocking any demolition work on the site, arguing that any work should be delayed until its copious legal challenges are fully resolved. The D.C. Court of Appeals issued a key ruling in July that resolved one of the largest outstanding legal obstacles to the project, but opponents have appealed that decision.

Yet Chanda Washington, a spokeswoman for D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, is adamant that the activity on the site has nothing to do with any demolition work.

Instead, she says workers are merely starting to perform tests on how any future construction would impact McMillan’s historic resources. The property was once home to a water filtration plant, including large stone silos that have earned the site comparisons to Stonehenge.

Washington noted that the court previously ordered such testing, in order for the project’s developers — a partnership of Trammell Crow, EYA and Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners — to have a full understanding of how any work might “impact those elements we need to protect.”

“We’re just trying to take the necessary time to see what the impact will be,” Washington said. “If we’re at the point where we’re demolishing McMillan, that’d be a huge milestone.”

Before any of that demolition work can actually happen, the appeals court previously specified that the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will need to certify that the developers look capable to actually complete the project.

And there are still some legal loose ends to tie up. The court has not yet decided whether to grant petitions for rehearing filed by both Friends of McMillan Park and D.C. for Reasonable Development, an activist group that’s earned notoriety for its frequent challenges to large projects.

Legal holdups are nothing new for McMillan. The current development team first sketched out plans back in 2006 and even held a ceremonial groundbreaking 10 years later. But it’s been stymied repeatedly since by court challenges, fueling a push by local developers for the District to change up some of its land-use guidelines to make such legal actions less viable.

The D.C. Council is set to approve many of those proposed changes next month. Developers aren’t completely satisfied with them, but District officials believe that the alterations (in tandem with the court’s latest decision affirming the McMillan plans) signal a new era for planned-unit developments like the sand filtration effort.

Someday, the developers hope to build 2.1 million square feet on the property complete with apartments, townhomes, medical office space, a new Harris Teeter and a D.C.-built park.

NEWS   |   August 12, 2019

Washington, DC

construction projects Reston Halley Rise | Reston, VA

Crane Watch is in a constant state of flux, as it should be.

The vast majority of the projects we started with in 2017 when we launched the interactive map of the region’s largest ongoing construction projects have been completed, and replaced with, essentially, an entirely new set.

All but two of the projects in the gallery above, the top 10 largest projects underway right now (plus one bonus), are relatively recent additions.

The Washington Business Journal generally limits Crane Watch to projects valued at $50 million or more — if we do not have that information, we go with the project’s size, or our gut. The map includes, at this time, 72 projects ranging from massive mixed-use developments to new hospitals. It does not include data centers or large renovation projects.

We also recognize that we might have missed some projects. Please let us know of the gaps. Email mneibauer@bizjournals.com.

And please check out the full Crane Watch map.

NEWS   |   July 19, 2019

Riverdale Park, MD

Trolley Riverdale Park Station | Riverdale, MD

Calvin Cafritz Enterprises just started work on the first apartments at its Riverdale Park Station project in Prince George’s County, and it’s already getting ready for what’s next.

The Prince George’s County Planning Board is scheduled July 25 to review a detailed site plan application for two additional seven-story buildings totaling 632 units, including 195 age-restricted units, plus 450 square feet for restaurant or retail use — to be located in a refurbished, freestanding trolley car.

The buildings are slated for a future phase and a timeline was not immediately available.

Riverdale Park Station is home to Prince George’s only Whole Foods Market. The first 229 apartments there, in the Residences at Riverdale Park Station at 4650 Van Buren St., are slated for completion in the second quarter of 2020.

At buildout, the 36-acre development is expected to have 119 townhouses, 850 multifamily units, 160,000 square feet of retail, 20,000 square feet of office and a 120-key Hyatt House hotel.

The latest proposal includes 338 apartments in one building and 99 apartments and the 195 senior units in another. The application provides for 791 vehicle parking spaces — in garages set at the back of the buildings, screening the development from the CSX tracks — as well as 696 bicycle parking spaces and three fitness centers between the two buildings.

The trolley car, meanwhile, will “recall the use of such cars many years ago” on the property. It will “provide an interesting and attractive amenity at an appropriate scale in this location.”

Riverdale Park Station is about 1.1 miles from the College Park Metro, but it is a short walk to a future Purple Line stop and Riverdale Park Station offers a free daily shuttle to both the College Park and Prince George’s Plaza Metro stations.

NEWS   |   July 18, 2019

Washington, DC

McMillan Sand Filtration appeals

The wave of appeals that has delayed thousands of units of D.C. housing in recent years appears to have reached a turning point with a series of court decisions that experts say should give developers confidence.  Vision McMillan A rendering of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site development The D.C. Court of Appeals earlier this month affirmed the Zoning Commission approval for the $720M McMillan development, which had its first approval vacated by the same court in 2016. The decision is meaningful not just because it will allow the long-stalled project to move forward, but because the language in the court’s order displays a shifting attitude that experts say should bode well for other projects facing appeal, experts said. “I think this really is a watershed [moment] for this litigation,” D.C. Director of Planning Andrew Trueblood said of the McMillan ruling. “It clearly outlines the boundaries of what the court is looking for … It sets the stage for what the rules of engagement are.”  The McMillan decision came down within a week of two other court rulings that will also allow projects to move forward. In a June 27 ruling, the court affirmed the Zoning Commission approval of Capital City Real Estate’s 180-unit project at 1701 H St. NE, more than 26 months after the project was appealed.  Capital City Real Estate A rendering of Capital City’s planned project at 1701 H St. NE Capital City President Scott Zimmerman told Bisnow he plans to regroup the project team and move forward as quickly as possible now that its approval is secure. He was glad the court ruled in the project’s favor but was not happy with the length of time it took to get there.  “To put a project on hold for two and a half years is never a good thing,” Zimmerman said. “It’s obviously pretty frustrating to have to wait that long for that to get cleared up.” The third recent court decision came in an appeal over a 46-unit homeless shelter in Ward 5, with the court upholding its approval in a July 3 ruling after the project had already started construction. Additionally, the court issued a ruling March 28 affirming the approval of JBG Smith and Gallaudet University’s Union Market-area project, 20 months after the appeal was filed.  In addition to the the cases that have been upheld after going through the full process, appeals have also been either withdrawn by the party that filed them or dismissed by the court. These outcomes prevent the developers from having to wait for a hearing and for the court to issue a final order, but have still caused months of delays that can prove costly.  Redbrick LMD A rendering of Redbrick’s 2.3M SF Columbian Quarter development on Poplar Point The group that appealed Redbrick LMD’s 2.3M SF Poplar Point project withdrew its claim in May, 11 months after filing its appeal. Also in May, the court dismissed the appeal over MRP Realty’s Washington Gateway Phase 2 due to lack of standing, three months after the appeal was filed. “I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel coming from the Court of Appeals,” said Cozen O’Connor partner Samantha Mazo, who has represented developers in several appeals cases.  At least 10 other appeals have been withdrawn or dismissed since the start of 2018. But several appeals are still waiting for a court decision and the projects remain in limbo after lengthy delays.  The appeal of the Bruce Monroe Park development, a 273-unit affordable housing project in Northwest D.C., has been in front of the court for over 25 months, including a February hearing, but the judges have yet to issue a decision. The case for EYA’s 82-unit townhouse project in Michigan Park had a hearing in March but is still awaiting a decision 16 months after the appeal was filed. The court has also yet to rule on MidCity’s 1,700-unit Rhode Island Avenue project, which was appealed 14 months ago.  More recent appeals over the planned Mob Hotel near Union Market, the 600-unit Waterfront Station project in Southwest D.C. and Four Points’ Reunion Square project in Anacostia have yet to be decided after two, five and eight months, respectively.  Additionally, two projects for which the court vacated the Zoning Commission’s approval, Brookland’s 901 Monroe and the Barry Farm redevelopment, haven’t had their approvals reinstated and can’t yet move forward. Menkiti Group, the developer behind the thrice-appealed 901 Monroe, has said it is waiting for the ongoing rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan to finish before moving forward. The Office of Planning hopes the Comprehensive Plan amendments will create more clarity around the process to mitigate the delays caused by appeals. Bisnow/Jon Banister The D.C. Council’s Comprehensive Plan hearing in March 2018 drew hundreds of residents to testify. The developers of the projects that still face appeal should feel some optimism about the latest rulings from the court, Mazo said. She said the Zoning Commission began writing more lengthy and detailed approval orders after the court struck down its approval of multiple projects, and the court has begun to show more deference to the commission’s decisions.  “If it is a good strong order coming out of the Zoning Commission, like most of them have been recently, then it should at least give some hope and hopefully stabilize people in the development community at the very least that the court is going to be most likely using the more deferential standard of review going forward,” Mazo said.  Holland & Knight partner Philip T. Evans, who has represented developers in over a dozen appeal cases including McMillan, also sees this trend and thinks it should give developers confidence.  “It’s safe to say the recent spate of decisions on Zoning Commission cases reflects a trend that the developers and the commission are doing a much more diligent job at the commission level of addressing certain issues, including objections raised by certain parties, and the court decisions reflect the legacy of giving deference to agencies,” Evans said.  Attorney Andrea Ferster represented Friends of McMillan Park, the group that appealed the development’s approval, and she said she disagreed with the court’s latest decision but doesn’t think it represents a major shift on behalf of the court.  “The court has always given deference to the Zoning Commission,” Ferster said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate given that the principles we have cited in our case should have been applied. Had the court taken the required hard look at the Zoning Commission’s decision, in my opinion, I think they should have not affirmed the decision.”  Ferster said her primary point of objection related to the medical office building proposed for the campus, which she said doesn’t conform with the Comprehensive Plan’s goals. She also said Friends of McMillan Park and a separate group that appealed the project are pursuing additional avenues, including petitioning the court for a rehearing.  The court’s perceived shift may allow more projects to move forward, but it doesn’t erase the time that they lost and the costs they incurred during the process. The costs developers must pay while waiting for court decisions include legal fees, taxes and potential loan payments on the property. What’s more escalating construction costs will likely make the projects more expensive than they would have been had they started when initially approved, Zimmerman said.  “Your time is one of the biggest pieces of any development, and to add that amount of time from a cost standpoint and a market standpoint is tough to do,” Zimmerman said.  Projecting what the market will look like when a development delivers is always difficult given the time it takes to design, entitle and build a project, but adding two years to the process adds more uncertainty, Zimmerman said. The potential of a looming economic downturn could make the market for new projects less appealing than if they had been able to break ground two years ago, Mazo said.  “I am concerned about where we are in the economic cycle, that this will potentially set portions of the D.C. housing market back significantly as we move into the next predicted time of slower economic growth,” Mazo said. “From a financing standpoint, these past two years have been a good time to move forward with development, but if slowness occurs, then the interest will slow down.”  The surge of appeals has caused developers to shy away from pursuing planned-unit developments, the process that allows greater density in exchange for community benefits but has allowed opponents to delay projects in the courts. At least two developers scrapped PUDs after being appealed, and an untold number decided not to file a PUD and instead build by-right projects that create fewer units but have less risk of appeal. The number of PUDs filed has decreased significantly over the last year and a half, a trend Mazo attributes directly to the increase in appeals.  “It has absolutely caused a chilling effect,” Mazo said. “The fact that PUDs have slowed down absolutely has impacted the ability for D.C. to provide housing, and the number of units caught up in appeals is in the thousands.” The number of appeals has also decreased this year, but that is not because people have stopped opposing developments. Aristotle Theresa, the attorney who has represented groups filing appeals in over a dozen cases, told Bisnow in an email there have been fewer appeals filed because there have been fewer PUDs to appeal. He declined to comment further.  Mazo said she has been telling developers that the PUD process has greater certainty now given the Zoning Commission’s more detailed orders and the court’s affirmation of them, and she hopes it leads to more developers pursuing the process.  “I would hope that developers and the affordable housing community see these cases as hopefully a way to get more confidence in the PUD process, so hopefully more units can be approved and developed and the PUD tool can continue to be used as it was envisioned,” Mazo said.  After waiting 26 months before the court ruled in his favor, Zimmerman is not as optimistic about the process.  “The time that it takes is something you have to take into consideration doing any project that requires a PUD,” Zimmerman said. “That is still a huge hindrance to doing these types of projects.”