Living with Giant/Cathedral Commons Construction – Update #9

July 11, 2014

Predictions about progress on the new Giant/Cathedral Commons project should be taken only with an extremely large grain of salt — perhaps an entire salt mine.

The latest chapter in our own local “Perils of Pauline” saga began on June 16th, when work finally got underway on the replacement of the 20″ water main on Wisconsin between Idaho and Macomb, already the subject of several delays. Although the ANC had urged DDOT to allow as much work as possible to be done during the day, outside of rush hour, DDOT’s concerns about the traffic impact had led them to issue permits for work only between 9pm and 4am. The all-night misery caused by jackhammers, back-up beepers, and other sleep-disrupting noise led to an outcry on the part of affected neighbors, especially the residents of Vaughan Place. Both DDOT and DCRA pulled their permits, and work stopped. In order to allow continued mobilization of the subcontractor’s crew and to avoid an extended delay in completion of the project, the ANC issued no objection to the continuation of night work during the short week of June 30 (but with no staging work on Idaho), leading up to the July 4th holiday. Although all concerned recognized that there are significant trade-offs between day and night work, in terms of disruption to commuters and residents, the problems of neighbors who had been unable to sleep for so long were rapidly becoming unmanageable. Any error should be on the side of the residents’ health and well-being, and night-time work would simply have to stop.

This point was made forcefully and repeatedly at a June 30 meeting of the Liaison Committee, attended by representatives of DDOT, Council Member Cheh’s office, and about 40 upset neighbors. All present recognized how difficult it would be to develop the necessary Traffic Control Plan and issue the necessary permits in the two or three days left before the long weekend, but — to the credit of everyone involved — it happened. Although night-time work will be required on occasion, requiring a separate permit and ample notice to the neighbors, the bulk of the work is now taking place during the day, between 9:30am and 3:30pm, and between 8am and 7pm on Saturdays. If you have tried to navigate Wisconsin Avenue, you have almost certainly noticed that. The bright(?) spot is that school is not in session, and many users of the Wisconsin corridor are on vacation, so it could be worse. (And probably will be. See below.)

Timing now becomes a real cliff-hanger. If all goes well and no unforeseen problems arise — a big ‘if’ — the main portion of the utility work should take 6 – 8 weeks, plus a few more weeks for tie-ins, signalization, and other work — taking us to early October at best. If Giant and CVS deem the proposed space ready for occupancy in time, then CVS is expected to move in in October, the Giant in November, and the first restaurants in December. These dates already represent significant slippage from earlier predictions. (See previous Updates.) If this schedule cannot be maintained, the openings may well be delayed until early 2015, since all tenants want to avoid opening over the holidays.

This also means that disruption due to construction will continue until the end of the year, but the noise will dissipate as the work moves further into the core of the building. No schedule is yet available for the North Block, since the focus is currently on the CVS and the Giant. Progress on the buildings themselves, especially the South Block and the Idaho townhouses, continues apace. Parking in the neighborhood by workmen continues to be a problem, one which Bozzuto intends to address.

Only one or two more leases have been signed since the last report — Solidcore Fitness and Park Fabricare (previously at the site). Since there has reportedly been a lot of Letter-of-Intent activity lately, there may be some additional news as the summer progresses.

The next Liaison Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for August 6th at 6:30 pm at the police station. The public is welcome.

Click here to view the CPCA’s full Giant/Cathedral Commons Construction page, including previous updates.