- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2006

Georgetown-based developer Herb Miller is suing the District over the collapse of a mixed-use project near the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark, claiming the city reneged on a promise to allow his company to build a parking and condominium complex along the north side of the stadium.

Mr. Miller, of Western Development Corp., said the city unfairly killed his plan to build two large parking garages wrapped in condominiums, with shops and a hotel at the street level.

City officials partnered with Mr. Miller to satisfy most of the requirement to build 1,225 parking spots at the stadium while spurring economic development in the blighted Southeast neighborhood.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi criticized the project from the start, warning that its complexity could threaten completion of the stadium before Opening Day 2008.

The team’s ownership group, led by the family of developer Theodore N. Lerner, expressed similar concerns and lobbied for bare garages that could be built more quickly.

The city broke ties with Mr. Miller in September before agreeing on how much he would pay for the development rights.

At that point, it was clear to the city that the Lerner family would not approve the plans. City officials also said Mr. Miller was unable to show that the city would be protected from liability if the development was not completed on time.

Mr. Miller said the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, which is in charge of the stadium project, acted in bad faith.

“It was clear that they wanted to kill this deal,” Mr. Miller said. “They didn’t want to develop the area; they only wanted to make the team happy. They were representing the team owners and impeding everything we wanted to do.”

The District, the sports commission and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court.

City officials were reviewing the lawsuit yesterday and declined to comment.

Mr. Miller said he was suing to obtain the development rights he thought he had been awarded, and that he has a compromise parking plan involving less development that can be completed in time.

He said he has spent nearly $6 million on plans, consultants and attorneys, but he was not suing to recoup any money.

Mr. Miller stressed that the District will miss out on millions of dollars in tax revenue if it is unable to develop the land around the stadium.

Mr. Miller is known in the city for his involvement in several large real estate projects, including Gallery Place and Washington Harbor.

The D.C. Council plans to vote today on whether to allow the construction of two bare, free-standing garages at the stadium site.

The garages could be completed before the ballpark opens but essentially would block any chance to build retail or housing. If the city does not complete the $611 million stadium project on time, it could be liable for millions of dollars in damages.

In a meeting yesterday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty — a Democrat who currently represents Ward 4 on the D.C. Council — said he thought at least nine council members would vote to approve the garages.

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