McMillan Filtration “literally just a sand wasteland” or a “park” worth saving?

by Prince Of Petworth October 7, 2016 at 12:45 pm 41 Comments

Michigan and North Capitol Street, NW

Jamelle Bouie tweeted last week:

“I support that message, btw. McMillan is literally just a sand wasteland. Let’s turn it into something useful.”

You can read about some opposition here and see some renderings here.


For those curious about how (some of) Mcmillan looks today:










  • A little bit of both.

    • Rich


    • ET

      That is what I think. Sometimes decisions don’t have to be all the one thing or all the other. A little imagination and you may get something interesting.

      • JoDa

        That’s what’s planned here. Housing, retail and office, plus a 6-acre park (that’s about a city block, to put it in relatable terms…not massive, but substantial) and a rec center (someone mentioned below that it was going to have an indoor pool). If the whole thing were turned into a park, I don’t see it being well used without extensive programming, which is expensive to execute and fraught with “but that’s not what *I* want to do!” Given the pathway of even those nearby to go use the park (highway-like multi-lane roads), it would most certainly not be a quaint park where people send their kids to play on the jungle gym.

  • Anon

    This is a very tired debate at this point. It will be redeveloped in the next few years, regardless of the conclusions we may reach here.

    • gotryit

      Well we can’t do cars vs. bikes again yet, so what’s your suggestion? Jogging strollers at a beer fest?

      • textdoc

        With unleashed pit bulls! In the bicycle lane!

      • Anon

        Can’t we just talk about shoes?

      • Planner

        Kids at bars!

        Residential pop-ups!

        Unfair parking tickets!

  • Anacostia

    Build. It is a useless, fenced-off wasteland right now. The people complaining would complain about anything. There is no benefit to it in it’s current state. Let’s turn it into something functional and nice.

    • Evan Tupac Grooter

      I’m a neighbor. Though I am not against any development. I am against developing the site until there is a reasonable transportation plan in place. The one put out by DDOT basically said that the site would be developed regardless so there is no need to plan for the added density. It would be great to get the buses in the area (specifically 80 and G2) running more frequently. Streetcar down to Union Station on North Cap seems like a no-brainer.

      • anon

        Seriously? A streetcar that’s yet to be proposed and, as far as I know, not been studied as part of the many transit studies that produced many other streetcar plans that have since been tabled, is a no-brainer? I want streetcars to happen, but the whole idea is in jeopardy; but maybe that’s just cuz they’re not doing it down North Cap yet!

      • JoDa

        See, you say this here, and I nod and say “that’s the one reasonable complaint the anti-development crowd has made, and you made it reasonably. The bus lines are there, a little more frequency does the trick nicely with added benefits to existing residents. Streetcars are a nice idea, too, if the city could just learn how to do them!”
        Then you go and make your comments below. I’m pretty sure from those you *are* against any useful mixed-use development.

        • anon

          It’s not a reasonable argument. “Increase the frequency of bus lines” is literally the whole plan, and there’s no reason to implement it before the things are actually built. WMATA increases the frequency of bus lines that are crowded all the time. Are there still some crowded bus lines, sure. But the idea that we have to implement the higher frequency many years before a construction projects is slated for completion makes no sense.

  • Dognonymous

    That pit of sand needs a Harris Teeter more than ever.

  • It’s surrounded by fences topped with razor wire. How does anyone consider that a park? Is it free range organic razor wire?

  • Anon X

    I agree, it should have been made into a park, something along the lines of Meridian Hill Park. But, that ship sailed circa 1985. It literally will NEVER be a park. Whether it used to be or not, isnt the issue. There’s nothing to be done about it and people need to move on and stop losing sleep over it. You win some you lose some and this was lost before the first little yellow sign was ever deployed. Im just glad there will be significant common space and a sizable park area, at all. If developers had their way they’d max it out as much as possible.

    • Anon

      You are LITERALLY wrong, though: the southern parcel will be developed into a park with an adjoining community center (with an indoor pool).

      • Anon X

        Hey sport, not too good with the reading comprehension, huh?

  • bloomies

    I’m guessing most of you don’t actually walk near here ever/regularly. Sure, right now there is fencing and some unused structures – to focus on that alone is shortsighted, at best. Frankly, it has a lot of potential to become – at least in part – a very usable and needed green space, and something unique (not to mention historical) and not just more of the same ugly condos/mediocre grocery store.

    • Ampersand

      OK, let’s pretend I agree that the buildings are ugly. Even so, new housing is desperately needed in the DC area, and this is a great place to put it. I’m sorry to hear that your walks will be less pleasant, but the people who eventually live in the eventual development here will be grateful that it happened. They will probably also be grateful for the ability to walk to a grocery store, and to use the new, publicly available park space, and to not have to instead live in Adelphi and drive down North Capitol St to work every day.

      • textdoc

        I seriously doubt that the new housing going up here — other than the portion specifically earmarked as low-income housing — is going to be affordable to anyone currently living in Adelphi.
        People in the middle — the ones who don’t qualify for low-income housing, but who can’t afford “luxury” apartments — are getting squeezed in D.C.

        • stacksp


          People in Adelphi will remain in Adelphi. If this is developed it will probably be a

          • stacksp

            High 600k/700k starting point for a smallish unit. From the renderings, I cant really tell what the housing options are but everything decent these days starts in this price range it seems

    • Q-san


  • Amper

    Build more housing in the middle of a city??? That’s a terrible idea! A fenced-off empty lot is obviously much better for everyone. Also, nothing in this city should ever change (except for property values so that I can profit on them).
    Of all the things in the world to want to “save”, this is up there in stupidity/selfishness with the Suntrust Plaza and Ajay Bhatt’s fence. Heaven forbid we try to make nice things.

    • thunder

      But we NEED this weed farm in our city!!!

  • Rich

    Another good example of why I never turn to Slate (or CBS) for commentary. She’s obviously never been inside.

  • Nathan

    Is the development plan perfect? No. is any? No. living nearby, I welcome having a grocery and usable park space. I don’t want to see it sit vacant for another 10 years.

  • McMillan Neighbor

    To all the people who want it to remain a park: are you willing to pay more in taxes to cover the cost of maintenance of a park? A park the size of the site (20+ acres) would be costly to maintain, probably several million dollars a year. The current plan has a large park/green space (approx. 6 acres) and community center, but also some revenue/tax producing uses that can help pay for the park and other services. Also, there is a much needed grocery store planned.

  • SaraEP

    Is anyone else tired of the overuse of the word “literally” for everything? “omg like literally everything”

    • DCReggae


  • PettyShabazz

    Ummmmm clearly one of those building houses the dungeon where Daenerys kept her dragons so those in opposition could totally file for historic status to stop the development…ijs

  • JRDC

    McMillan Filtration deserves a Whole Foods.

  • B-dale Citizen

    Many people don’t know the entire structure of the underground sand filter beds (AKA “caverns”) was built with unreinforced concrete — this means it has no steel rebar for strength. Unlike say, the High Line, an elevated train track that could handle thousands/millions of pounds of weight, this structure can’t handle any intensive use without extensive reconstruction and reinforcement.

    In order to convert the entire “park” (the grass top that covers the underground filter beds) into a surface that people can walk on and enjoy, the entire underground structure will have to be reinforced with steel. This will be incredibly complex and expensive. The current development plan proposes saving 2.5 of the 20 underground sections (or “cells”) on the site. While this may seem minimal, it’s actually going to be incredibly costly and difficult just to restore this small portion of the underground site to make it safe enough for the public to use. To pay for this reconstruction and the LARGE park at the southern end of the site, the city needs private development to create tax revenue.

    I would encourage everyone to consider the complexity of the project beyond your own narrow point of view and consider the fact that the city is trying to do something good here. It may not be perfect, but it’s far better than seeing this fenced-off, abandoned site sit empty for another 30 years.

    P.S. It is important to note that the McMillan site once had a perimeter walkway lined with cherry trees, designed by Olmsted Jr. This promenade was essentially the only public amenity here (there was also a fountain). The walkway/”park” was closed to the public after WWII. The perimeter walkway is restored in the current development plan.

  • fugwatsu

    so we’re rebooting an argument that has raged since the late 1970s but without any of the historical context:: the army corps of engineers being forced to sell the site with warnings to never build on it due to a shaky foundation, the city reports that development would bring the surrounding streets to gridlock with a multiplication in traffic flow and most of all the fact the site is historically relevant to the development of the city and it is beautiful. for those of you who want tall glass buildings – move to houston

    • Anon X

      Move back to the moon.

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    I can’t take you people seriously with “it should be a park” or “it should be a mixed-use multi-modal blah blah blah.” What should happen here is obvious: it should be a paintball by day/lasertag by night arena.

  • Charles

    It is not a sand pit. It is our neighborhood’s backyard park and we would like it back!
    Shame on the city of DC for just giving it away under our noses!

  • JB

    I’m absolutely for the proposed development of McMillan Sand Filtration site, and I argue that the city has negotiated a pretty sweet deal on all of our behalves.

    Community is about compromise – it’s what our country was founded on, and the DC government has worked on DC residents’ behalves diligently to bring to fruition a compromise of the following:

    1. Parkland (6.5 acres is a lot of land – this is equal to the upper level of Meridian Hill Park). This is in addition to the massive Rock Creek Park that’s close enough to this site to walk/run/bike to (2.2 miles).
    2. Amenities like grocery store/retail/community rec center,
    3. Housing (if you add more housing supply, even if its luxury housing, then the cost of housing goes down – or doesn’t go up as much – for those searching for housing).
    4. Office space in a part of the city that doesn’t have much, so that DC residents can work near where they live (helping reduce traffic congestion in other parts of the city, and partially mitigate the traffic that will result in this location)
    5. An increase in tax revenue for the city.
    6. Eliminate a blighted/dangerous property.

    Suggesting that the city is giving away the land under our noses is wrong. The city is using its resources (land/time spent on the project) to give us housing, parkland, amenities, and increasing the tax revenue so that they can pay for things like:

    A. Affordable housing
    B. Proper maintenance of existing parkland.
    C. Better quality of city services like trash pickup, street cleaning, etc.
    D. Improving the quality of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and the parkland adjacent to them.
    E. Infrastructure improvements, such as fixing crumbling bridges, roads, sidewalks, sewers.
    F. Adequate homeless shelter facilities so that they don’t have to build them next door to us.
    G. Efforts to establish statehood ad autonomy for DC.

    I’m glad this topic has been posted. It gives people, other than the vocal minority, a chance to voice their opinion. It gives them a chance to show the DC gov’t officials and the developers that the vast majority of people, who are otherwise too busy working and raising families to communicate their support, do support this development.

    Traffic does seem to be the only legitimate concern. As mentioned by another poster, DC can increase bus frequency, introduce express routes, and introduce more Circulator routes. DC will also continue to support and grow the Capital Bikeshare footprint. Uber and Lyft continue to facilitate transportation, albeit not for daily commutes to work. And DC will work on other transportation strategies city-wide. The developer will likely incentivize their residents to use zip-car, Uber/Lyft, Metro, and Capital Bikeshare. When this development comes to fruition, parking will never be the same, which is OK. The compromise for adjacent neighbors is that in return for diminished street parking and more street traffic, you receive a grocery store/retail/community rec center across the street, the blighted/chain link fenced liability across the street is eliminated, and your property values increase by 30%. That’s a deal I would take any day of the week. In fact, that’s a deal I want to take because I live several blocks away, albeit not immediately adjacent.


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