MidCity wins court approval for new housing development in Mt … – Washington Business Journal

A long-delayed housing redevelopment project near Mount Vernon Square is moving ahead despite objections from local religious leaders who had argued that it displaces too many low-income residents and threatens their churches’ survival.
A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals rendered an opinion Nov. 3 allowing Bethesda developer MidCity to commence plans to build a 360-unit apartment complex at 1200 Fifth St. NW. Associate Judge Stephen Glickman wrote in the opinion that the project includes an adequate amount affordable units and “would not threaten the diversity of the community,” as church leaders had claimed.
D.C.’s Office of Planning and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E had backed the planned unit development, which was approved by D.C. Zoning Commission in April 2020. Eight religious leaders objected, and in early 2021 Rev. Orand Young of First Rising Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Rev. Juliano Andujo of Miles Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church sued to block construction. The pastors, whose churches are across the street, had been pushing MidCity to include more affordable units in the mix.
“We are satisfied that the Commission reasonably and properly concluded that the PUD’s ‘new housing, both affordable and market rate, outweigh[ed] any potential . . . displacement impacts in the surrounding neighborhood,'” Glickman wrote.
The new, 246,000-square-foot building would replace 63 garden-style, market-rate apartments MidCity had built there in the 1960s and early 1970s. After letting the leases expire and paying moving costs so tenants could relocate to other units nearby, it applied for the planned unit development in 2019. Of the 360 units, 41 are to be set aside for households earning 50% to 60% of the area median income.
The site is one block from the Mount Vernon Square Metro station and sits in a block zoned for “predominantly moderate-density residential” uses. The building will have three and four stories and include parking for 103 cars and section for bike parking.
The two pastors had argued that the project will take away parking spaces for their churches and displace residents. Neither responded to a request for comment, but in a letter sent to the D.C. Zoning Commission in 2020, they called for a higher percentage of affordable units, which MidCity had said was not financially feasible.
“For religious organizations, this project and ones like it is death to our survival,” Andujo wrote in the letter. “While we accept our neighbors of other races, we reject this project and any of its kind that displaces residents making 20% to 25% of AMI and acting as if 60% of the AMI is adequate for current residents in the city of D.C.”
MidCity had originally said the project would deliver in 2023 and, so far, has provided no updates to that timeline.
“We are very pleased by the decision of the DC Court of Appeals today that affirms the Zoning Commission’s approval of our PUD for 1200 5th Street NW,” MidCity executive vice president Jamie Weinbaum said in an email. “With this decision in hand, we can proceed with lining up financing and taking additional steps to begin construction.”
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