Update on McMillan Development coming to McMillan Sand Filtration Site

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Some more renderings from the folks at Vision McMillan plus they also have an update on the DC Zoning Commission:

“The DC Zoning Commission will hold hearings on the McMillan Planned Unit Development (PUD) on May 1st, 5th, 8th and 13th should additional time be required. Each night, planning experts and members of the VMP team responsible for each facet of the project will provide testimony in support of the redevelopment. Community input is critical! Visit the May PUD Zoning Hearings event for details and to let us know when you will attend.”

You can check out some previous renderings here. The future McMillan Development will be located at the McMillan Sand Filtration Site at North Capitol and Michigan Ave, NW.

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62 Comment

  • I hope they are able to make it without too much NIMBYism.

  • *wince* let the comment games begin!

  • I really want this development to be a success, but putting what appear to be corrugated steel panels on the sides of yoru renderings is not a good way to build support. Why not build some cool-industrial loft style buildings on the site? Say what you will about Walmart, but the new building on 77 H NW is a very good example of what I’m talking about.

  • Things I have personally heard people say regarding this development:

    1) No one who lives near the site wants this, why are they building this when no one wants it?
    2) Everyone wants this to be built, no one doesn’t except for people who don’t live near the site.
    3) This is a park. It is currently a park and has always been a park. Save the park.
    4) This has never been a park. Industrial sites are not parks.
    5) We should occupy the park! Everyone, let’s go there right now and occupy the park!
    6) The developers are corrupt and possibly racist.
    7) There will be lots more traffic.
    8) There will be no more traffic.
    9) We should build a giant water slide on the site. People like water slides.
    10) There was a study about this, no one said they want it.
    11) There was a study about this, everyone said they want it.
    12) Only people who are new to the area support this.
    13) Only people who are new to the area oppose this.
    14) This will never get built.
    15) There is no way this does not get built.
    16) This looks awful.
    17) This looks great.

  • Is it too much to ask for classic architecture? That soviet warehouse building is going to age like shit.

  • Looks like the old apartment buildings down near SW Waterfront. Disgusting.

    Use brick.

  • the temple and pond area looks pretty dope

  • Agree on the red brick, which would fit with the existing structures. But more generally, I don’t understand why we would be better off with what we have now, which is a couple square blocks fenced off from the public.

  • I’m trying to understand this issue–why is it so controversial? Isn’t it similar to the Market at O Street?

      • Thanks. That was helpful. Care to elaborate?

        • In fairness to the person who responded with a “no,” there really is no simple way to answer the question “why is this particular redevelopment project so controversial?” If you really want to know why this site is so controversial, you should just look up some of the old PoP threads on the McMillan site redevelopment issue. The acrimonious debate you find in those threads might answer your question.

  • I live a few blocks from the site and have been in the game for about 4 years or so. Most of my neighbors are the “Save the park” bunch, which are pretty misunderstood. VMP is doing their very best to shut it up so they can come in and throw down what ever they want, get the money and run. The overwhelming majority of my neighbors know even though this would be amazing as DC’s “Central Park” it really can’t be, and are cool with some development there. The two major issues that most people have, VMP won’t even talk about. Those are making it 1/2 park and 1/2 buildings by not building the town houses (and saving the cells underground) and making the tall buildings look somewhat better, a better fit for the neighborhood. VMP pretty much says suck it, this is what they are going to push through and could care less about making a change to that. I can only think of two people I know who would still push for the lost cause of it being 100% park. One would think VMP would open up talks about 1/2 park and better skins on the buildings and get this thing built, seems pretty easy to me, unless you are a corporate giant trying to milk an opportunity for all you can get.

    1. Replace the town homes section with park land and save some of the cells underneath.
    2. Skin the tall buildings in something more classics and attractive, even if it is a bit more expensive (brick for example)

    How is this such an insane request from the community for something that is public land (not like they bought the land and can just do what they want)?

    • This sounds sensible – half park – half well-designed tall buildings with mix of residential and retail. Town houses were the cutting edge space-saver city dwellings of the 1900s. I love them – live in one, but it doesn’t make sense to build new ones on a site like this.

      • Though I would add – a tall Gaudi building with a water slide would be awesome beyond belief!

      • what is the problem with town houses?

        • No “problem”, just rather that space be used as Park land as there is no large park area in the neighborhood. You will always have space for housing, but this is a once in a lifetime chance to have park space. There will be massive amounts of housing in the 4 highrise buildings they are putting up, two of them are apartments and condos.

    • I think this sums up the argument well.

      To the point that VMP won’t touch the subject, that goes doubly for the District. Jeff Miller, who overseas real estate for DMPED, took a similar tact to reps from VMP, LLC. When asked why he wouldn’t consider removing a row of townhomes, he made a statement to the effect that for each acre of lost development the District loses XX million in revenue (nothing handy on the exact amount he cited). The projections have this development generating around $900 million in net revenue for the District ($1.3 billion in revenue minus $400 million in expenditures). However, there’s never been a rationale presented for why it must generate $900 million and be invasive versus generating say $500 million and increasing the amount of park space and preservation.

      The only real discussion of the dollars that I’ve seen on public record are the McMillan Advisory Group meeting minutes from October 2012: http://mcmillanadvisorygroup.wordpress.com/meeting-minutes/2012-2/

      There hasn’t been any disclosure of exactly how much the District is committing (other than what’s reflected at a high level in the comprehensive plan) nor what that commitment will fund (notionally it’s for all preservation activities, the community center development, and then all preparation of the land for development. This would mean that the developer in turn is only committing funds to erect the structures, not any of the land developer or master planning costs.

    • I appreciate the sentiment, but Friends of McMillan are totally off the deep end and that’s why they are losing everyone’s sympathy. They posted pictures of their “dream board” or whatever, and people wrote “underground lazer tag”, “performance art theater”, etc. It’s COMPLETELY unrealistic, not to mention, I doubt the majority of them even agree with each other. They are just opposing anything that isn’t exactly what they, as individuals, want. It’s so frustrating. I would rather have an ugly soviet building than nothing at all, which is all the FOM is going to get us.

      • I can see that, although you don’t need to be a member of Friends of McMillan Park to find a reason for opposition to this current plan. Keep in mind that both civic associations that abut the land have only expressed opposition to the project, not just Friends of McMillan Park.

        There are a lot of parts to this plan that raise serious questions and concerns about what this development will do to the community. As such, I can’t understand why the city won’t entertain a reduction in the scale of development or honor some of the other community requests. Instead, what’s being proposed is relatively the same plan as what was first proposed (from a density standpoint) and is trying to justify its existence because it will create a park and community center, both of which the city is paying for. The city can stay with roughly the same master plan and the same development team so that this isn’t a lost cause, but the sentiments of the community really need to be respected first.

  • I agree i think a brick structure would be cool. Something like balgdan alley?

  • Are we sure that plans didn’t get mixed up? These renderings look like the new suburbs built by the Soviets next to cities in the Baltics. Suburban Tallinn, anyone?

  • The major controversies are 1. the nearly total destruction of the beautiful underground vaulted caverns, which many feel should be repurposed and open to the public, like the Cisterns in Istanbul. (The two being preserved will be used for flooding so not open to the public.) and 2. the amount of traffic VMP says its plan will generate (an additional 6,000 vehicular trips/day) in an area with only 3 streets and no metro. Given the plan’s focus on cars and the retention of the vast parking lots beside it at the Hospital Center, some think it’s a plan more suited to the suburbs, rather than on a site with limited road access and on top of a site on the national register of historic places.

    • preservation of the underground vaults is so silly. “open to the public”? seriously? what would the public do in dozens of empty cavernous vaults underground that would be beneficial to the city overall?

      traffic is a real issue. but “preservation” is ridiculous.

      • I think the caverns are to be adaptively reused if they are preserved, not just left empty. This is the same idea as the re-use of the regulator houses and silos above ground. The caverns have a clearance of at least 10′ without the sand, I believe, so why is it so difficult to envision a restaurant, pool, etc. going in there? At least you’d already have four walls and not be building an entirely new structure.

        • seriously? this is the plan? a “restaurant or pool”? underground?

          There is an underground space beneath dupont circle that they have been unable to put to productive use. what makes you think dozens of underground spaces several miles out from the city center would be different?

          there are some good arguments against the mcmillan development but reuse/preservation of the underground spaces is definitely not one of them.

      • The underground vaults would be amazing, think – restaurants, art galleries, grocery, markets, night clubs, shops, flea market, gym, souk, museum, etc, the list is endless. Paris and New York are planning similar underground spaces in old subway tunnels and ours would have natural lighting from the manhole covers. The cisterns in Istanbul http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_Cistern are a an example of a similar space being repurposed for a modern use. McMillan Park was designed in the industrial age and is a rare example of the merger of park and industry and could be creatively repurposed into something unique and special rather than simply building more office/condo/retail space in tall glass and metal buildings in a residential neighborhood with little public transportation.

        • There is an underground space below Dupont Circle that has been a total flop. These holes in the ground are miles from the city center. Grocery markets? What? Your ideas are as harebrained as the fools that suggested we should build a huge water slide.

        • You made your own argument against why this will not work. It’s a residential neighborhood with little public transportation. There is NO MARKET for art galleries and night clubs. Grocery stores, affordable bars/restaurants, and housing is what the market needs. A part would be fantastic and well recieved as well (and the current plan includes one). People are being SO unrealistic it’s unbelievable.

          • You guys make me laugh out loud. You MUST be on the VMP Payroll. How can you say there will be no use for a Grocery when the VMP plan has a Grocery going in one of its buildings? I tell you now as a Bdale resident we would KILL for a gym in our area, that could easily take up 3 – 4 cells with no issue. Another cell as a community hall that can be rented for personal events (Can you imagine a wedding in the park with a reception below boo ya!). Nobody is saying we expect to keep every cell below, but you could easily keep half of them. Saying the dupont area failed is not a comparison, nobody has ever tried it (only talked about it), and everything we just listed above is already there, gyms, groceries, etc. There is no other large commercial space in Bdale. Keep the history, keep the site 1/2 cells below with park above and we have a done deal. Pretty simple folks. With the two residential highrises going up and the two comercial / medical high rises in the plan that could easily put thousands of people in the area to support any businesses around.

    • You are comparing these holes in the ground in what was originally a suburb of DC to the cisterns of istanbul? the cisterns of istanbul are located directly under the most historic section of the city and are massive and spectacular examples of Byzantine engineering. The McMillan site is a bunch of holes in the ground miles from the city center. What a ridiculous comparison.

      • OK. So is a comparison to something like Chelsea Market more appropriate for you? I think the overall point is that a lot of people love these cells for their aesthetics and see it as a large part of the the historic interest in the site. I understand you personally believe they’re an eyesore. We’ll just have to disagree on that. But re-purposing the cells isn’t ridiculous so much as it just requires ingenuity.

        • And a boatload of money

          • That may be. It’d be nice at least for someone to pull together a rough cost estimate for a number ideas for the underground cells. Unfortunately this has never happened. To the best of my knowledge, no one even entertained the idea of reusing the cells or the costs that would be associated with that.

          • Thats because it is a horrible idea. We have a plan here that generates a lot of money, and actually puts this area to productive use. Underground cells are a non-starter in this location. Throwing good money to “study” this is useless. Would you want to open a grocery market underground in this location?!

          • Kyle-W,

            I don’t understand the position that generating the most money possible from a piece of land is the way to go. I definitely agree that making the area productive is important but not all development in this city needs to maximize profit. There can be a healthy balance or else developers are just exploiting whatever community they build in.

            I hear you on the re-purposing of the cells and using money to look into it but I’m not sure it’s as costly as you think. The city spent almost $40,000 so that VMP, LLC could have an interactive video on its website. Don’t you think those funds could be better spent?

          • Of course. No clue why we are helping VMP, LLC.

            Why would it not be? This should be productive land, put to its highest and best use. Rarely in the city do we have opportunities like this, to completely redevelop a plot like this.

            To segment out pieces (for underground grocery markets?!) costing the city millions of dollars in revenue seems ridiculous to put it mildly. Opportunity cost is real. The cost of your underground grocery markets is millions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere. On something like modernizing schools, or hiring librarians.

            I would much prefer an extra dozen librarians over even one underground grocery market.

  • I wish people would give up on the underground cells. 1) they are in pretty bad shape, to reinforce them would be more costly than its worth, 2) who is going to pay for security to patrol those underground cells? While that whole area is blowing up with new residents, restaurants, etc. its still a transitional neighborhood with a couple of pockets of seedy buildings and inhabitants.

    • I and a lot of other people have toured those underground cells — before the city realized that letting the neighborhood give tours generated strong support for preservation — and the cells were in fantastic condition, not surprisingly, since they’re reinforced concrete and built to last. Like another poster said, the ceilings are very high, and the cells are flooded with light from all of the manholes used for filling the cells with sand. It’s spectacular and unlike anything I’ve seen in any other city. In an old newspaper article, they called them the Cave of a Thousand Devils. See for yourself what they look like by Googling “McMillan Sand Filtration Cells” and looking at the images.

    • Frank,

      I hear you on security. But to your first point, what basis is there to say the cells collectively are in bad shape and would be more costly than they’re worth? Back in 2002 the city planned to reuse at least the 4 stable cells and also look into using the additional 8 moderately stable cells (now plans only call for preservation of one and partial use of another for a tour of some sort). The cost for preservation/stabilization versus straight demolition is a difference of around $1 million per cell (see the only publicly available report on the integrity of the cells: http://mcmillanadvisorygroup.wordpress.com/mcmillan-development-plans/financial-information-associated-with-mcmillan/cell-preservation-costs-and-stability/). This whole project was roughly quoted to cost $700 million to develop and the District is committing somewhere between $50 million and $76 million (amount quoted back in 2012) to the project. $1 million in each case is not much considering the entire project was initially supposed to have no public funding associated with it.

      As to the 8 moderately stable cells, DCWASA completed work in the upper right quadrant for stormwater retention (cell 14). They had budgeted a certain amount for cell stabilization. According to the DCWASA engineer on that project, it had to use NONE of that funding as the cell was in much better condition than they anticipated.

      So please take anything you hear about the condition of the cells with a grain of salt. While there are absolutely some cells that should not be reused, there are a host of others that are perfectly fine to reuse. The real issue is that the site cannot support 130 and 110 foot buildings without demoing and filling in the cells and no one wants to discuss reducing the building density to accommodate greater preservation.

    • the point on security is really key. would you really want to enter small, shadowy spaces with lots of crevices and nooks in this neighborhood?

      • This would not be a small shadowy space filled with nooks and crevices. Look at the photographs of the underground cells. These are cavernous spaces. They would be electrified, lighted, have plumbing, the businesses would have locks and doors. It would be a vibrant exciting space and more exciting than the cookie cutter buildings planned for the site now. Someone said who would go to an underground grocery store, but if you had an acre of underground parking and natural light from above, it would have more light than the grocery store that would be built at the base of a 14 story building and have lots more character.

  • Does anyone know if there are plans for the adjoining reservoir? It would be a fantastic walking path similar to the one in upper Central Park. I’m sure there’s been thought to open it up to the public?

    • Since it is still an active reservoir, there’s absolutely no chance of them taking down the fencing at this time (more of a liability issue than concerns over the water supply). Maybe if it’s decommissioned… but I don’t really see that happening any time soon.

    • I think this point has been raised a few times now. The reservoir is still federally owned so DC has no rights to that property. People could lobby the corp of engineers but I don’t expect anything to realistically happen there without a federal incentive to do so.

  • Well, the entire south west corner of the site (from the lighted walkway just behind the community center) is now gone…razed by DC WASA.

    The gov’t is going to spend how many millions of dollars to build back the plinth (the raised section) to ensure the integrity of this design ( a big wide lawn). However, that money could be used much more interestingly in putting in place a Paddington Reservoir type of garden (a park within a park). http://www.tripadvisor.fr/Attraction_Review-g255060-d2230032-Reviews-Paddington_Reservoir_Gardens-Sydney_New_South_Wales.html

    Instead we’ll just spend the money rebuilding what they’ve torn down and what do we get? One big lawn. We have one of those already….it’s called the National Mall. It’s a folie furieuse.

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