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Future of Ciminelli's Reverie project is now uncertain

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s controversial proposal for a pair of residential developments on Elmwood Avenue doesn't appear to be gaining traction anytime soon.

As 2017 comes to a close without any movement toward even submitting plans, the developer is instead allowing new businesses to open up in the buildings it owns, which had been targeted for demolition as part of the planned Arbor + Reverie projects.

A new Thai restaurant called Rin Thai Bistro opened at 988 Elmwood, on the site between Bidwell Parkway and Potomac Avenue, Ciminelli spokeswoman Anne Duggan confirmed.

That area was destined to become the Arbor building, a five-story design that Ciminelli yanked from consideration early this year amid vocal and growing community opposition to the entire project.

In November 2016, Ciminelli revealed plans for a $40 million project, consisting of two five-story buildings on Elmwood, at the corners of Bidwell Parkway and Potomac Avenue. The original proposal featured 97 condominiums and apartments, eight retail storefronts and a three-level parking structure. And it required the demolition of existing structures on 11 properties, which would then be combined.

Angry neighbors quickly objected to the size and scale of the plan, which they said didn't belong in the Elmwood Village. They said it would destroy the neighborhood's character and charm, and argued that it violated the Green Code height and width limits for new buildings in Elmwood. Statements by Ciminelli representatives and attorneys only fomented more outrage and opposition.

To avoid the obvious struggle they faced, Ciminelli officials in January pulled Arbor off the table for now, and reduced the height of Reverie to four stories, in hopes of showing they were making an effort to work with the city and community. They said they would revisit Arbor once Reverie opens.

Reverie would now include 51 apartments, 129 parking spaces and 5,600 square feet of retail space, with a courtyard to break up the facade and provide access to the parking ramp in back. A pair of secondary buildings would be renovated for another 12 apartments, yielding a total of 63 units.

Ciminelli executives had already agreed to preserve the Skate Shop building and a two-story apartment home at 588 Potomac. They also said they would continue discussions with neighborhood groups to fine-tune the proposal.

Meanwhile, the same opposition was leveled against Chason Affinity Companies' condominium project at Elmwood and Forest avenues, which that developer also reduced in height from five floors and 57 units to four stories and 40 units. That eventually won approval over the summer after months of bitter fighting, although two neighbors are still trying to appeal a court ruling in a lawsuit seeking to reverse those city actions.

Ciminelli, however, never finalized or submitted any plans to the city for either Arbor or Reverie after withdrawing them earlier in the year. The firm even put three of the homes – 584 and 588 Potomac and 721 Ashland Ave. – back on the market after concluding it didn't need them and didn't want to renovate them as previously planned.

And Duggan said no decision has been made on the rest, so it's status quo for now – which means empty buildings might not be empty for long.

"We are still reviewing all options and, until such time as we have a defined project, we will continue to welcome new commercial and residential tenants," Duggan said.

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