- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The District has exercised eminent domain to seize a Wendy’s restaurant in a Northeast intersection known for frequent traffic accidents, reportedly paying the owner more than $13 million for the property.

The intersection island at New York Avenue, Florida Avenue and First Street NE — known as Dave Thomas Circle after the founder of the restaurant chain — is set to be redesigned by the city.

The 18,374-square-foot property owned by CRV Sunrise Valley LLC is estimated to be worth more than $7.3 million, according to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. The land deed was transferred to the city in exchange for $13.1 million, according to Bisnow.com.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press release late Monday that the area will undergo numerous changes to make it “safer.”

“Almost every Washingtonian has their own Dave Thomas Circle horror story,” Miss Bowser said. “Now, we are taking the necessary actions to transform this confusing intersection into a multimodal project that supports the current and future needs of D.C. drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.”

The city plans to redesign the intersection by creating three public park spaces, realigning and adding two-way traffic to First Street, restoring two-way traffic on Florida Avenue and adding protected bicycle lanes, among other safety-related improvements.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will host public meetings regarding the design this spring, and the plan is expected to be finalized this summer. Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

“This is an important milestone in the Bowser Administration’s efforts to make this corridor safer for the thousands of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists who use it every day,” interim DDOT Director Everett Lott said in a statement.

Efforts to redesign the area have been in the works since 2019, when D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie urged Miss Bowser to address the “traffic nightmare.”

“It is no secret that this is a failing intersection that is unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists,” the Ward 5 Democrat wrote in a letter to the mayor.

Miss Bowser later agreed to budget $35 million over the course of six years to fund the “Florida Ave/New York Ave Intersection” project.

A concept design plan was given the green light last summer. In early January, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed a lawsuit seeking to condemn the property inside the intersection under eminent domain, a legal power used by a government to take private property and transform it for public use.

The complaint states that a study of crashes in the District between 2013 to 2015 found the intersection is one of the top 10 most hazardous intersections in terms of total number of crashes.

The property “imperils the health and safety of the users of the roadways and sidewalks at [the] intersection,” according to the lawsuit.

Officials are working with the property owner to relocate the restaurant, which is one of four Wendy’s in the city.

Wendy’s corporate headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Tuesday.

The District has used eminent domain to acquire other properties several times. In 2005, the city seized land in Ward 6 to build Nationals Park and again in 2015 to build Audi Field.

Most recently the city used eminent domain in 2018 to close a trash site in Ward 5 that nearby residents had complained about.

If a property owner challenges an eminent domain action, a jury trial can be held to determine proper compensation and who is entitled to it.

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