Housing Complex

Changes to McMillan Design Fail to Win Over Loudest Skeptics

Earlier this week, UrbanTurf published a couple of renderings of the new design for a big park at the McMillan sand filtration site along North Capitol Street. The latest scheme from Vision McMillan Partners address some neighborhood concerns, replaces a 3.4-acre park at the center of the site with a 6.2-acre park at the southern edge, and looks, well, rather gorgeous:

The Historic Preservation Office likes the changes, calling them "a substantial improvement" and praising the new park for its "far superior location and concept." But the neighbors who objected to the earlier designs? Not so much.

"We’re still not in favor of the plan, because basically, I mean, the park they’ve done some things with, but they made it more dense by pushing things up," says local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Tony Norman.

"The basic objections still stand," says John Salatti of the Bloomingdale Civic Association. (Update: The Bloomingdale Civic Association emails to note that it has not taken a position yet on the new plans; Salatti is speaking for himself.) "Yes, there have been a lot of changes, and the pictures are prettier, but the changes don’t actually address any of the concerns we discussed last year."

Norman objects principally to the taller buildings in the new design and the fact that not all the park space will be usable by the public. (He prefers this lower-density proposal, which the developers can't be wild about, given the diminished revenue potential.) Salatti protests the loss of sight lines from the Stronghold neighborhood to Howard University and the National Cathedral and the lack of creativity in the design. "The idea that McMillan could be Washington’s Millennium Park or High Line, that kind of creativity has never come to the project," Salatti says.

And so the seven-year battle is likely to drag on longer. "Every improvement they’ve made has been done because the community has forced them to do it," Salatti says. If that's the case, don't expect McMillan's dissatisfied neighbors to give up the fight.

  • DC

    Ha ha! McMillan Park cannot be DC's Millennium Park or High Line, both of which I have been to. Those parks are in prime downtown and tourist locations. This is in a nowhere residential neighborhood.
    A better comparison would be the Meridian Hill park, which is a great amenity to the local neighborhood. This design reminds me a lot of that park, which is a good thing.

  • Stronghold Resident

    Aaron, besides the positive remarks from some of the HPRB members, why did you choose not to quote any of the numerous other community voices who came out to support the project, including the ANC5E09 chair Dianne Barnes, a longtime Bloomingdale resident and community activist who supports the Vision McMillan plan? What about the numerous other folks who came to the meeting to speak out in support of the project from neighborhoods surrounding the site?

    It is problematic that the loudest, most vocal opponents to developments get the most attention from the media, and that their views are broadcast as the "community input" that speaks for all. The fact is that there are many non-activist, non-vocal regular folks who support something, anything, happening with this unused, fenced off, crumbling industrial site before we all die. We just don't have the time or energy to attend meeting after meeting, write a blog, email the editorial department, send letters to all of the city council members, attend hearings (during the day when most people are working), and otherwise drive the conversation.

    I challenge you to walk around Bloomingdale and/or Stronghold one day and get the opinions of 50 people on this matter. Random people, not a survey, just generally asking. I would think the results would surprise a lot of people.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/ Aaron Wiener

    @Stronghold Resident: Thanks very much for your comment. I've written before about the support for the project. (See http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2012/09/20/d-c-s-biggest-development-project-gone-today-here-tomorrow/) Here, I wanted to see if some of the vocal opponents had been won over by the changes. They have not. But I didn't mean to imply that any of that former support has vanished.

  • Stronghold Resident

    Cool, I understand. Thanks for the reply.

    Still, I think it would be interesting to undertake an informal survey of people around Stronghold and Bloomingdale on what they think of the current plan. My impression has been that there is much more support for it than is popularly assumed.

  • Barrie Daneker

    it's been the same small group that has held back this development for 30 years...it's time to move forward! the plan is a good one and will bring jobs, affordable housing, amenities that will make the area walk-able, and a park that is huge...Enough with the NIMBY's who believe differently who think that DC has unlimited financial resources...Enough DC listen to the majority of residents of the area...and let's get the ribbon cutting and deal done.

  • Daniel Wolkoff

    Daniel Goldon Wolkoff said at 5:40 am on Tuesday April 9, 2013:

    This is the link to the McMillan nomination to National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

    Ironically this excellent nomination was written by our Office of Historic Preservation. It is an excellent description of exactly what is being lost by this super over-development plan by VMP.
    Before any community input to the HPRB, deciding to approve or reject VMP’s Master Plan,the HPO staff report recommended that “regrettably, the developers tell us McMillan is too deteriorated to restore”, give me a break. Really? But there own beautifully written nomination tells us how intact the place is, and describes a treasure, WE OWN and waiting right behind that cyclone fence to become a “Great Place”, to be a major destination and enjoyed again for everyone.You can see what was once wonderful for the city and nation at McMillan. The nomination has been approved. We have a clean water utility, historic park landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. A clean water utility only the insane would eliminate, and not preserve to assure our safe drinking water security in the face of any problem at Dalecarlia.
    HPO, by law, The DC Historic Preservation Act, is responsible for McMillan’s preservation, so where has this agency been for 27 years, and by what distortion of their responsibilities do they help pave it over and make the historic fabric into architectural oddities in a mixed-use mall. So out of context with 50 buildings, streets, condos, townhouses, a “grocery store”,,,medical offices and a even a 6 million gallon SEWER!
    The VMP plan is super-urbanization, not a park. The remaining so called “open space” no longer representing anything like the Olmsted Park we are losing. Our park, our land, our millions of dollars wasted by the pathetic performance of every DC mayor and city council since 1986. Imagine Central Park in NY fenced off, allowed to be overgrown with weeds and all visitors blocked from access for 27 years, right in the face of a severely under served community.!They held this magnificent place back for 27 years, saying screw you to our community.
    Let's get started,we need to form The McMillan Park Conservancy, to guide the magnificent restoration, the plantings, sun-lighting the stream, family and nature activities so desperately lacking in the area. We need urban agriculture, art, music festivals, films, dance, and anything else the community chooses for their park.
    The community, never given a single forum to openly discuss and present ALL options, can pick only the right things, compatible and democratically decided. Professor Gusevich concept for an underground Urban Market and Bazaar might be one of the carefully selected re-use of existing galleries and structures.
    You don’t reward miserable government failure like this by giving our park to VMP, and the 10 high flutin’ design, architecture and planning companies lined up at the money trough.
    If we need to take away parks, for mega development,, get the Feds to cede a section of Rock Creek Park to the city, and try to build this monstrosity there! When a section of the city, like ours has been shown contempt for decades and parks planned at the turn of the 20th century, are never realized, wasted like this,, WISE UP!
    see this nomination and IMAGINE!!

  • jcm

    @Aaron Wiener They're never going to be won over. They simply don't want urban development there.

  • Jonathan Klabunde Tomer

    How is North Bloomingdale "underserved" for parks? There are three gorgeous parks within 2 blocks of my home, and while none of them are huge, I've never seen any of them too crowded for me to enjoy.

    On the flip side, we're dramatically underserved for retail -- the nearest grocery store is a mile and a half from my house -- and it's pretty clear from rental prices that we could do with a lot more housing supply, too.

    Like most neighborhood residents, I support VMP -- or any other practical plan that will actually turn the McMillan sight from a blighted, fenced-off, unusable eyesore into a thriving improvement to our neighborhood and economy.

  • Eric

    Daniel Wolkoff's obviously copied and pasted response is pretty laughable. Let's get this development off the blue prints and on the ground running! I'm diggin this park design.

  • http://westnorth.com TANSTAAFL

    "Gimme, gimme, gimme," say the selfish NIMBYs who continue to stall development at a decrepit industrial site along one of the city's dumpiest thoroughfares, costing their fellow taxpayers millions of dollars in foregone revenue with every passing year. "Gimme something resembling this $475,000,000 park, or maybe if you're being cheap, I might be okay with something comparable to that $250,000,000 park, even though I live a mere two miles from the splendid National Mall [almost as large as Central Park + Grant Park and lined with treasures like, oh, the Magna Carta and the Hope Diamond, among a few million other things]. Oh, and I want all of this for free -- correction, I demand an immediate tax cut, or maybe I'll let you build two houses somewhere, of course in a place where I will never see them." Never mind, of course, that both Millennium Park and the High Line were largely paid for by building dozens of new skyscrapers along their flanks.

  • Rob Chester

    Why not parks and green space?

    In what way does this city need to trade an historic space for more cheesy, high-priced condos, chains and offices?

    The concept art shows people enjoying themselves on the grass next to a tall, brightly-lit building, like they're in a park.

    Because doesn't everyone enjoy hanging out on the lawns of office buildings and picnicking at parking-and-loading zones?

  • Tortoise

    NIMBY's don't want something incredible & special like McMillan in their back yard. McMillan is unlike anything else in the Americas. These NIMBYs aren't evil--they just don't have vision for anything outside of what they've experienced everywhere within their surroundings. This historic place is awesome & deserves visionaries leading the project--not average developers & politicians looking for fast money. This special place should only be developed when we have outstanding bright, honest & creative officials leading the way. Sadly, we are stuck with only average people and a few loud less than average people taking the lead. The Mayor's office promised land to various developers including some that are Average at best (EYA). Our rare bright, imaginative, creative, honest elected officials are quietly deciding not to step on the toes of McDuffie who inherited this expensive project that has been championed by Harry Thomas Jr., Kwame Brown, and now McDuffy with almost nothing to show for it. McDuffie is not corrupt--just not a visionary or willing to think outside of the box. He, his predecessors & the Mayor's office worked themselves into a corner by promising a handful of developers pieces of this property without bidding the parcels out for the best design, architecture & cost to the city. McDuffy focused on putting a new req center on the site to get community buy-in, yet there are 2 other req centers falling apart within walking distance. The currently proposed development falls far short of the potential this landmark holds--it is merely typical and benefits only some. Based on conversations (not the plan), VMP has some creative consultants, but they are hindered by their client's lack of vision & perhaps the lack of money put in by the Government. Everyone thinks EYA is incapable of doing anything amazing with housing. McMillan is a diamond in DC. You guys are so close to losing one of the most amazing things in your back yards. Our leadership needs to recognize, accentuate it & show the world what your Ward has that nobody else in America has. Then it will stay true to what President Taft, Senator McMillan & Olmsted intended for this site. Then it will profit everyone on all sides of the argument monetarily, mentally & spiritually for generations to come.

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