A D.C. panel has rejected plans for a $425 million development that would cover the intersection of Interstate 395 and Massachusetts Avenue's web of paved roads and freeway signs with a hub of offices, retail and residences. The District's Zoning Commission took issue with the project's retail plan and massive building sizes, saying the 2-million-square-foot development seemed more like a fortress for workers and residents than a destination.

"It does not feel like it's going to be an inviting, attractive space," said Commissioner Peter May. "There's no real reason to be in [there] except to go get whatever it is that you need ... so I'm just not convinced that it's laid out the way that it should be."

Commissioners focused mainly on the Massachusetts Avenue side of the development, where stores would mark the main pedestrian entry points.

"I've looked at the renderings and I've looked at the floor plans and I don't even know if a Starbucks is that big -- they look like tiny little spaces," said Commissioner Michael Turnbull.

The Louis Dreyfus Property Group was told to revamp its plans and is scheduled to appear before the panel again on March 7.

Robert Braunohler, the firm's regional vice president, said after the meeting he thought the team could redraft a plan both sides could agree on.

"Hopefully, the next hearing we have, we'll respond to their concerns," he said.

Local Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chairman Robert Amos, who attended the meeting, said the rejection took him by surprise.

"We looked at the retail strategy and we liked what we were seeing ... and we thought they had a plan to bring in the type of retail that would make it a place people would want to go to," he said.

He added that nearby residential community City Vista doesn't have a large-scale retailer -- such as a Barnes & Noble -- but it's still a "popular space that was once a dead zone."

Commissioners also suggested the site needed more public spaces such as a park or square that would give the development a gathering place. Nearby Business Improvement District NOMA is learning that lesson the hard way as public parks were omitted and planners are searching for space left with which to fill that need.