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D.C. Will Pay $13 Million to Buy Out the City’s Most Notorious Wendy’s Location

“Dave Thomas Circle” will be transformed into a public space under a new plan to reform the traffic black hole the city loves to hate

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Sometimes you hate something so much that the hate becomes a form of love. The object of hatred — say, a fast food franchise plunked in the middle of a busy intersection that makes no sense — is so universally despised that a community develops a collective angst around it. This phenomena could explain why anyone online is even joking about mourning for the Wendy’s on New York Avenue NE, the epicenter of a traffic morass humorously nicknamed “Dave Thomas Circle” that will disappear by next year as part of a city government plan to improve transportation safety.

D.C. sees Dave Thomas Circle — not to be confused with Thomas Circle, an actual monument to Union Army general George Henry Thomas — as such a blight it has invoked eminent domain to acquire the property. Bisnow reports that court documents filed this week show D.C. will pay the property owner $13.1 million as part of a plan to demolish the Wendy’s and improve one of the city’s most dangerous intersections with linearly flowing traffic, bike lanes, and three new parks.

“Almost every Washingtonian has their own Dave Thomas Circle horror story,” reads an actual quote from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement released late Monday, February 1, that used the word “notorious” to describe the triangular plot bordering New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, and First Street NE.

Following Bisnow’s report and Bowser’s statement, a number of journalists, transportation wonks, and other D.C. residents turned to Twitter to share their traffic horror stories or otherwise voice their displeasure (earnestly and mockingly).

Dave Thomas Circle is such a recognized impediment to Washington commuters that the Washington Post published a history of the intersection — home to a Wendy’s since the mid-1980s and organized in its current configuration since 2010 — in 2017. There are Twitter accounts named after the faux landmark itself and the effort to fix it. There has been at least one epic Halloween costume devoted to it.

A rendering of renovation plans for Dave Thomas Circle show people mingling in a public courtyard lined with trees and flowers.
Not a Wendy’s
Rendering from SWA/Balsey

According to Bisnow, this week’s court filing says the intersection ranks in the top 10 worst areas in the city for total number of car crashes, and 80 percent of those figures represent sideswipes or rear-end collisions. Washington Business Journal reported in October that D.C.’s 2021 fiscal budget earmarked $35 million to buy and renovate the land.

A design proposed by the District Department of Transportation and partners specializing in architecture, planning, and parks includes three new green, public spaces. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2022.

And for those who are sad there will be one fewer Wendy’s to buy a Frosty, take heart. There are three more in the city, including one nearby in Union Station.