City Desk

Zoning Commission Delays Voting on Contentious McMillan Park Plans

The decades-long drama over the redevelopment of McMillan Sand Filtration Center did not get any closer to reaching a conclusion Monday night. The D.C. Zoning Commission was slated to make a zoning decision on the 25-acre site, but instead opted to delay its vote until its Sept. 29. meeting so it could learn more about the proposed plans.

In front of a packed audience—by zoning commission meeting standards, anyway—Commission Chair Anthony Hood said, "This is too important...Our goal is to do this as right as possible."

The city purchased the McMillan site along North Capitol Street more than 25 years ago with the intention of developing it into a mixed-use community. But the languishing site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has remained empty and blocked off from the public. 

The D.C. government selected Vision McMillan Partners to develop the site years ago, but last night the five members on the zoning commission weren't completely won over by the proposal and asked developers to tighten up their plans. Their plans call for 30,000 square-feet of "neighborhood-serving" retail, 531 apartment units, 146 town houses, a 17,000 square-foot community center with a pool, a 50,000 square foot grocery store, and more than 10 acres of park space. Most disconcerting to the Zoning Commission, the proposal also calls for a 130-foot-tall, or a 10-story, medical office building. (In all, VMP says 41 percent of the McMillan site will be parks and open space.)

The plans have divided the community, with two factions forming: Save McMillan Park and Create McMillan Park. Save McMillan wants the shuttered site to be transformed into a "great metropolitan park" while Create McMillan wants to develop the land. Each party had representatives present at Monday's meeting wearing pins and other paraphernalia in support of their causes.

Hood said the Zoning Commission can only review what's given to it, adding that no one has proposed to the body using McMillan Park as a completely green space. VMP's proposal is what the commission was presented with, so that's the plan it will vote on.

The Commission requested that Vision McMillan Partners resubmit plans with more specific ways it would implement traffic-mitigating techniques in the area surrounding the property. It also wanted to see what the plans would look like if the medical office building was scaled back. "I'm a little uncomfortable that one part of the medical building is 130 feet," Commissioner Peter May said. "I would be more comfortable with 110 feet."

Under the plan, VMP will pay various community groups  for the inconveniences of the construction. The commission is seeking more concrete details on how VMP will divvy up these funds and how the money will be distributed.  Representatives from VMP said it could address all of these concerns in time for the commission's September meeting.

"It will take us some time," Hood said of the ongoing process.

Photo by David Monack (Wikimedia Commons)

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  • Mat

    I do not believe that there are 10 acres of park space proposed for the site. There is around 10 acres proposed if one counts some of the open space on site like the South Service Court and community center.

    I still cannot understand why 110 feet is acceptable but 130 feet is not. Both C-3-A and C-3-B reference medium density development, which is called for the McMillan site. In either case we're talking about 90 foot structures even with the PUD easement standards, not 110. Everything north of Florida in the area that's been developed is C-2-A, C-2-B or C-3-A (with a couple of C-Ms scattered), all of which are 90 feet and below, except the Children's Hospital which was zoned as a special exception (SP-2) and Washington Hospital Center (SP-1). Under PUD standards, both buildings are still only to be 75 to 90 feet tall, even with easements.

    I understand the argument that medical facilities require a certain height to accommodate medical standards (would be great for someone to weigh in on the accuracy of such a statement) with the understanding that less density comes with that height. But that doesn't justify the height with respect to the surrounding community and how development has been undertaken outside of the city center. If a medical facility requires such height at reduced density, perhaps it's better for the site as a whole if a medical facility is not there at all and something smaller but of the same density is constructed (e.g. 90 feet and under).

  • Eric

    In the plans submitted to the Zoning Commission, the developer specifically requested relief from providing a grocery store on this site. They stated that they have been "working daily" to identify a grocer, but have not been able to do so. If the Zoning Commission approves this plan there is no guarantee that a grocery store will be built on this site.

    The plans for the park are 6 acres out of 25 acres. Much of the park and open space cited by the developer is the space between the sidewalk and the streets and the buildings and the sidewalks.

    The group called “Create McMillan Park” was created and funded by the developer, in their own words - “to neutralize the opposition.” In fact the developer billed and the city paid the developer for this campaign until it was uncovered and the developer reimbursed the city for the charges.

    Once the Zoning Commission approves the plans, the city has budgeted 50 million dollars to destroy the underground caverns. Then the city will then “transfer” the property to the developer. It’s not going to be sold, it will be transferred. Also, there was no competition for this contract. The city just chose the developers. Sounds like a sweet deal.

    McMillan Park was created by the McMillian Commission and designated a national park as part of the emerald necklace of green parks surrounding the District to beautify the city. That the District would even consider destroying the historic features of the park to build office towers on one of the most prominent open green spaces in the city – in the ward with the least amount of parkland makes no sense at all. The city completly forgot to include parkspace in NoMa and is now trying to correct that mistake by spensiding lots of money on little tiny parks. McMillian Park is about a mile from NoMa and with 1000 people moving into the District every month, we need more parkland not less.

    This will be one of the most densely populated office/condo projects outside of downtown. The traffic is already problematic because of the commuters who use North Capitol Street and the existing hospitals in the area. All of the new traffic generated by this development will have a direct impact on ambulances trying to get to these hospitals.

  • DCCommish

    As many know I support this plan. 30 years and 3 differenct proposals... with the general community in support of affordable housing and mixed use development that allows resients to have services much need in this area I have to beleive that this is the right thing to do. I am confident that VMP will statify the Zoning commissions request. No better Person in DC than Chairman Anythony Hood to be handling this PUD. It's a balanced plan that meets the needs of DC residents and some of the wants of local resdients in the area.

  • Fearing Dysphoria

    Perry Stein neglected to mention the most sensational statistic about VMP's plan: 2900 new parking spaces at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, an intersection already often backed up even at non-rush hour.

    It is VMP's failure to explain how the additional traffic would be mitigated that gave most of the ZC members pause.

  • Daniel Wolkoff

    It's not a decades long drama Mr. Stein, VMP plan is a horror story! Two massive medical buildings belong across Michigan Ave at the Wash Hospital Center, where the parking lots are re-engineered to reduce the storm water run-off flooding disaster. The condos belong in renovated derelict industrial buildings along the Red Line.Each luxury unit at McMillan is one less derelict house renovated, another gross failure of the DC government. We can have water and food security, real parks, outdoor concerts open breezy COMMON green-space, a "Great Place", we have to defeat this outrageous , anti democratic, ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL PLAN, RIGHT NOW!
    McMillan is not "shuddered", our tax dollars are mis-used by our government who have fenced off OUR park for 30 years in blatant racial and economic class discrimination. Where is there a "shuddered" green space in upper NW?
    The VMP plan is so GOD awful and YES wrong and forced and too massive, and virtually everyone thinks it is hideous. The time for balance for the earth, in our environmental decisions is NOW! The people must re-gain control of govt. 20 DC officials, including the Zoning Commissioners, are in bed with destructive industries like VMP, and we can't afford this excess, carbon emitting, urban heat island, destruction of our public green-space.
    This city is not a democracy!
    Do you want illegal, unethical and disgusting, well,,, the Mayors deputy (DMPED) are buying community support with their Baltimore PR firm, Jamie Fontaine,,, attempting to subvert, and "neutralize opposition", and "create the appearance of community support".VMP is buying City Council support from the top lobbyists, The Carmen Group, that majority partner Trammel Crow is paying $10,000 a month INDEFINITELY!!!!!

    Urban Turf is a Real Estate rag, but our earth is more important than the hand that feeds you. Are you journalists or a big joke, why not tell the whole story of anti-democratic, unethical, and illegal things VMP has done including the $55,000 bribe to felon Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr. that started this entire pathetic mess. No Dc taxpayer or voter, the OWNERS of McMillan ever gave consent to make this miserable plan on our land, and destroy our clean water and food security. When this dictatorship demolish the underground 20 acres, that is where sustainable agriculture could provide DC food security,,wake up Urban Turf, do you have children?

    McMillan Park is where your govt. officials want to pave over the green space, where they kept the public out of since 1986. The designated (sole-source developer) Vision McMillan Partners plan, is for 50 buildings, six private streets, 600 condos, two Medical Office Towers, an (as of yet untenanted grocery store with a lawn in front, McPark pretending to be a real park), a community center and 3000 parking spaces. An expected increase in traffic estimated at 20,000 cars per day on top of 30,000 already using N. Capitol daily.

    This last 25 acres is where, WE THE PEOPLE" must put our foot down, and kick out this corporate/govt. corrupt scheme! We demand historic preservation and a 25 acre park. We demand world class adaptive re-use of 20 acres of underground galleries for concepts as bizarre as growing enough vegetables to make DC food secure, and not dependent on trucks bringing produce from drought areas of California or Mexico, and Florida. Preserving a 105 year old, proven, safe water filtration system that can be a critical emergency life saver, as a crisis or natural disaster can strike at any time.
    Other strange concepts like a family arts/cultural/performance campus come from us the people, we own it! We see Bethesda and the Maryland provide an actual family educational campus in a historic restoration called Glen Echo.

    The idea of a National Park like concert stage modeled after Wolf Trap, or Great Meadow in New York's Central Park, are needed by the community, as DC music lovers would be able to walk to shows and festivals, movies, opera, and symphony out doors while enjoying family picnics. Children would have a safe 25 acre bike and play area instead of asphalt school yards and the street.Central Park was literally saved in the 1970's by a public/private park conservancy, and we can do the same, just kick pout VMP neighbors!
    COME ON DC,for our families,our children and grandchildren,, WE HAVE TO END THIS CORRUPT, SHAMEFUL CRIME NOW!!INDICT GRAY, STOP BOWSER!REJECT VMP!

  • Daniel Wolkoff

    What city have you been living in, City Paper "reporter" Stein?
    "Hood said the Zoning Commission can only review what's given to it, adding that no one has proposed to the body using McMillan Park as a completely green space. VMP's proposal is what the commission was presented with, so that's the plan it will vote on."
    Sir, what could be more absurd?
    I will send you copies of testimony to the zoning commission and every other body there is in DC, of dozens of concerned, sincere, environmentally conscious residents, who demand, rightfully and unanimously, to Save McMillan Park, not co-opt it in putrid corporate/government corruption.

    DC citizens have been advocating saving the historic park, running tours, lobbying, petitioning to save all of it, and aree trying to include the entire 113 acre McMillan Reservoir Historic District for almost 30 years. 7000 people have signed a petition, hundred of DC residents have testified to every group, city council committee, Historic Preservation Review Board, hearings, meetings, presentations, Town Halls and candidates debates and specifically Chairman Hood's Zoning hearing. Where the hell have you been?
    You might, really, report about the extreme effort our paid public servants have had to make, to suppress, repress, IGNORE and quelch our voices and submissions, phone calls, emails, letters. Are you for real? The corruption of democracy needed to continue this devastating "APPROVAL" process is also MASSIVE! Our elected officials taking bribes, illegal campaign donations, to serve THEIR SUPERIORS, friend, at the development conglomerate. Wake up Mr. Stein please.The development conglomerate/dc a monster itself, VMPis everywhere, Trammel Crow doing $2 billion in dc develpmehnt, our own appointed Deputy Mayor is running $18 billion!!, and Jair Lynch, the whole stinking pig fest..
    Mr. Stein, do you know who is in control of DC? Where is the journalism? This is the death knell for democracy and the sensible environmental planning we need to save the earth, and journalists, all over DC media, are miserable failures and sellouts in this horror film.

  • DC4RD

    The fact that two critical components of this deal, the privatization of 25 acres of open public green space and the lack of true affordable units, was NOT mentioned once during the July 28 meeting by Zoning Commission is absolutely unacceptable and frankly freightening giving the development incentive to corporatize this space and turn it into a gated community.

    Not to mention, the very real water-security issues at play.

    The Zoned-out Commission, working with the Office of (poor) planning, ha shown itself to simply worthless in protecting the goals of the DC Comprehensive Plan, the Sustainable DC initiative, and laws around ethics and human rights.