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Cathedral Commons breaks ground, neighbors help guide design

Saturday - 11/17/2012, 10:25am  ET

Mark Segraves, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - It has been one of the longest battles over a grocery store that many can remember.

More than 10 years after the first proposal to build a new Giant Food store was put on the table, ground finally broke.

Eleanor Oliver has lived in the Northwest neighborhood near the National Cathedral for more than 50 years. She remembers the first plans for the new store on Wisconsin Avenue.

"They were big, they were ugly, they didn't offer that much," said Oliver. "All they really were was a giant parking lot with a grocery store in front of it."

Oliver and others opposed the design and the battle between the developer and the neighbors dragged on for nearly 12 years.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says neighborhood involvement is important, but there's got to be a limit.

"There is a lot of controversy associated with it and we clearly want these things to move more quickly, but we also want people to feel like their voices were heard," said Gray.

That is exactly how Oliver feels after the developer redesigned the project based on community input.

"Then one day they came in with this beautiful plan and I said, ‘You know, the longer you pick at them, the better it gets,'" said Oliver.

Cathedral Commons will have lots of retail, including a 56,000-square-foot, state- of-the-art grocery store, as well as apartments and townhomes.

Tom Bozzuto, chief executive officer of the site's development company, says there will also be plenty of parking for the high-density neighborhood.

"One of the things we're bringing to the neighborhood is a lot of parking," said Bozzuto, who explained that the new development will have 550 underground parking spaces.

Cathedral Commons is scheduled to open in 2014.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)