Building Over I-395

Late last month we discussed DDOT’s plans to study cutting I-395 to Mass Ave. The Center Leg Freeway was again in the news as WBJ reports that the district is close to completing a deal to sell air rights over a 3 block stretch of I-395 to Louis Dreyfus Property Group for $63 million. The segment is just south of the Mount Vernon Triangle spanning from E Street to Mass Ave.

Developing this area over I-395 serves the District in several ways.

  • Use funds to pay off a jury awarded $8.4 million settlement to development company previously awarded air rights in 1989
  • Allow the freeway “scar” to be erased and land east and west of the highway reconnected
  • The project could bring $400 million in revenue over 25 years and increase affordable housing stock
  • Increases developable land for the successful Downtown BID, which is approaching full build out

Obstacles still exist on many levels. DC Council would need to provide their stamp of approval. This may not meet much resistance seeing as the WBJ article cites Jack Evans, Tommy Wells and Kwame Brown as advocates for the project while making no mention of any dissenting members. The District’s plans for the money need approval from the FHA, which would have to grant an exception to rules that normally require that 90 percent of proceeds from such sales go toward federal transportation projects. Dreyfus could spend a year or more conducting environmental and engineering studies only to meet new resistance upon presenting their findings.

What could this mean for the Triangle? It’s possible a few units in the Madrigal and Sonata may one day lose their unobstructed Capitol dome views. Such is life in downtown real estate. The true difference maker for us will be when development build out pushes north of Mass. Our New Jersey Ave border feels so disconnected from the remainder of the CID.

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  1. 1

    IMGoph says

    anything that gets rid of that freeway and brings back the urbanity of the city is a welcome development. i hope the sale of air rights and re-creation of the city’s grid downtown can happen without too many hitches. i hope they truly do reconnect F and G streets, fixing the errors made by cutting them with the freeway.

  2. 2

    si says

    While i possibly support development of that stretch of 395 whether its over it or replacing it, I’m concerned about the practice of selecting a developer vs some sort of bidding process with public input. Though this is very different than just another parcel of land.

  3. 3

    fourthandeye says

    yeah, you’re right Si. When I began writing this up I fully intended to include a mention that this developer was not selected through competitive bidding. That is noteworthy.

    I think I lost my focus a little watching Josh Hamilton hit those 500ft moon shots during the Home Run Derby last night and forgot one of my key talking points =)