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D.C. foodies eager for the arrival of Eataly may have to wait a few years longer than expected, with city leaders lining up in opposition to a plan to close a portion of I-395 in order to speed up a major development project.
Property Group Partners is planning to reconnect the street grid and add office space, residences, and, yes, Mario Batali‘s famous restaurant and market, by decking over part of I-395, also known as the Center Leg Freeway, and building a mixed-use development called Capitol Crossing. The construction will require the prolonged closure of I-395 lanes, and in order to speed up the process, Property Group Partners sought to close a portion of the freeway in its entirety for more than a year. The developer says that move would cut construction time in half and reduce the need for loud and potentially dangerous nighttime work.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton was the first to speak out against the plan, calling yesterday for consultation with members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia before the Federal Highway Administration considers the closure. Today, she’s been joined by the city’s top two elected officials: the mayor and the mayor-elect.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Vince Gray told the Washington Post categorically this morning that he would not support the closure of the freeway. “We will not be closing 395, and the administration will inform the feds of that,” the spokeswoman, Doxie McCoy, said.
And at a press conference this morning announcing her pick for city administrator, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser told reporters, “I can’t imagine closing 395.”
The fight may be moot. The Federal Highway Administration told the District Department of Transportation yesterday that it needs to conduct further public review and study in order to close the freeway—-a process that could take several years. At that rate, any benefits from closing the full freeway would surely be lost. Property Group Partners founder and president Jeff Sussman couldn’t be reached for comment, but it may be both easier and speedier for his company to drop its closure request and slog ahead with the slower construction process, if it means starting sooner.
Update: Following Gray’s lead, DDOT has dropped its request to close the freeway, the Post reports.
Rendering via Property Group Partners