Tag: redevelopment

Redeveloping McMillan is the only way to save it

At a recent public hearing, neighbors of McMillan Sand Filtration Site renewed calls to make it a park. But the only way that can happen is by developing part of it as a neighborhood, and it’s up to the DC Council to make it happen.


Rendering of the future McMillan Park.

Residents filled a June 6 public hearing held by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to oppose plans to sell the derelict 25-acre site to Vision McMillan Partners, who will build homes, shops, offices and a park there. But others, including Councilmember Kenyan McDuffieand groups like the Coalition for Smarter Growth say it’s the best way to bring McMillan back to life.

It would be prohibitively expensive just to make McMillan a park. Since the underground cells are made of unreinforced concrete, they would have to be demolished and rebuilt just to make them safe to enter. Allowing some private development will give the neighborhood new amenities while paying to keep the best of what’s already there.

Plan preserves historic structures while creating new park

VMP’s plan preserves all 24 of the plant’s above-ground structures, including the vine-covered sand silos visible from North Capitol Street, along with 2 of the below-ground filtration cells. 2/3 of the site will remain open space, while the southern third will become an 8-acre public park with a pool, recreation center, and a community center with meeting rooms and an art gallery. VMP promises that this will be “one of the largest and best-designed public park spaces in the District.”


Proposed site plan of McMillan redevelopment.

The historic buildings will become part of a new neighborhood with about 800 apartments and townhomes, half of which will be set aside for families making between 50 and 80% of the area’s median income. There will also be street-level, neighborhood-serving retail anchored by a 50,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store. Along Michigan Avenue, there will be taller office buildings with a medical focus, taking advantage of proximity to Washington Hospital Center across the street.

To make this happen, however, the DC Council must decide this fall whether to declare the land as surplus and “dispose” of it. They can do this either by selling it to VMP or granting it as-is to VMP under existing zoning, which wouldn’t allow major redevelopment to occur. They could also divide the property and sell off the parts to different owners and under different zoning. They can do all of this in a single set of hearings and votes, and they should to ensure that this process happens as quickly and fairly as possible.


This rendering shows how new and old buildings will coexist at McMillan.

Throughout the summer and fall, the council will hold separate public hearings on whether to surplus McMillan and the details of VMP’s plan. Meanwhile, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board is reviewing VMP’s plan to redevelop the site with housing, shops, offices and an 8-acre park and will hold hearings about it this month and in September. They’ve already offered comments about the proposal and will make their recommendations before the end of the year.

Plan will improve stormwater collection, traffic

Groups like Friends of McMillan Park and the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club argued that McMillan is already a public space and should become a public park. However, one DMPED official I spoke to after the hearing said that the city can’t afford to do the work necessary to make the site safe for public occupancy. If the District retains ownership, the site would most likely remain decrepit and fenced off indefinitely.


All 24 of the site’s historic above-ground structures will be preserved.

Opponents maintain that the site’s underground cells are needed to retain stormwater, mitigating the effects of frequent floods in Bloomingdale, which is downstream from McMillan. But DC Water already plans to replace two of the cells with water storage tanks, which will remain after redevelopment. Meanwhile, VMP has also promised to incorporate stormwater retention and buffers into the buildings and landscaping on the site, reducing stormwater runoff.

Another top complaint was traffic. Residents feel that the neighborhood’s roads are already quite congested, especially at rush hour, and could not handle the extra trips generated by a major office, retail and residential center on the McMillan site. There is no question that the Washington Hospital Center, the city’s largest non-government employer, needs better public transportation service, as it is not located near a Metro station.


Buildings will step down moving south from Michigan Avenue.

VMP plans to build a bus turnaround for shuttles between McMillan and the Brookland Metrorail station, which would operate until a planned streetcar line along Michigan Avenue is built. Moreover, North Capitol Street has been designated a Bus Priority Corridor, meaning that the city intends to make changes to the street design and traffic flows to permit faster and more frequent bus service. The development would also open new through streets across the McMillan site, improving traffic flow and connections within the larger neighborhood.

Ward 5 needs parks, but it needs housing too

Some opponents say that new development should happen elsewhere in Ward 5, like on vacant and abandoned lots along North Capitol Street or Rhode Island Avenue. While not enough resources have been dedicated to encouraging more infill development, there’s no reason why that can’t happen in combination with the redevelopment of McMillan.


Rendering of the completed McMillan Park.

It is true that Ward 5 needs more and higher-quality parks, recreation facilities, and community centers. But the surrounding neighborhoods and the city as a whole are growing and are need more affordable housing, as well as more diverse shopping and entertainment opportunities within walking or biking distance or a short transit ride.

VMP’s current plan reflects the input of community members gathered over the course of several design charrettes that were open to the public. It satisfies the need for several types of amenities in this part of the city in a balanced way. It combines buildings that are in keeping with the surrounding neighborhoods with a large park, and preserves some of the historic filtration cells and all of the silos and brick regulator houses.

We have an opportunity to transform a decrepit former public works site that has been fenced off for over 70 years into a citywide destination: a vibrant and attractive new place to live, work, shop and play that serves many of the needs of residents in this part of DC while incorporating many reminders of its unique history. The Council shouldn’t waste any time taking advantage of it, as an opportunity like this won’t come again soon.

If you’d like to tell DMPED and the Council to surplus McMillan and allow VMP’s plan to happen, you can contact them here. Comments must be received by June 20.

All images courtesy of VMP.

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Wheaton seeking development proposals

Two days before the release of a request for developer’s ideas for Wheaton, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett joined County Council President Nancy Navarro and others Saturday for a tour of the area where redevelopment has long been discussed.

“This is Wheaton’s time, and we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it right,” Leggett said to the tour group including state and county officials as well as area residents.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (front, right) talks with Montgomery County Deputy Director of Transportation Al R. Roshdieh Saturday during a walking tour of downtown Wheaton to gather ideas for redeveloping the area to be more walkable. The tour was organized by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee and The Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (front, right) talks with Montgomery County Deputy Director of Transportation Al R. Roshdieh Saturday during a walking tour of downtown Wheaton to gather ideas for redeveloping the area to be more walkable. The tour was organized by the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee and The Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The request for proposals, posted on the county’s website on Monday, asks for developers to come up with a plan that includes a headquarters building for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a town square, residential and/or retail space, and public parking.

The plans can encompass up to four sites, including the Mid-County Regional Services Center, Parking Lot 13 and Parking Lot 34 in Wheaton and the current park and planning commission site at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

Developers have until July 31 to submit their proposals.

As of Monday afternoon, the county website listed four companies who had downloaded a copy of the solicitation.

Leggett stressed to Saturday’s tour group that the redevelopment process will include community input and that the county wants Wheaton to be a community that “you are proud of.”

“This is not the end, this is simply the beginning, an opportunity for the public to weigh in, to be part of this process,” Leggett said. “Without the public’s involvement, whatever we do will not be successful.”

Navarro said that, for the first time, the county has money in the budget for Wheaton’s redevelopment and that the current approach will allow community members to participate.

“It allows all of you, all of those people who have been involved for so long, to see how we can maximize this opportunity,” Navarro said.

Saturday’s walking tour — run by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee — highlighted several of Wheaton’s existing sites, including the MetroPointe apartments on Georgia Avenue — a mixed-income community — Wheaton Veterans Park, and the Wheaton Triangle area’s small businesses.

Henriot St. Gerard, chair of the urban district advisory committee, said a main goal of the event was to help people think about Wheaton in a broader sense than just the redevelopment of the Parking Lot 13 area and about its potential as a walkable community.

“It’s not just a focus on this centralized location in the urban district, we’re thinking about everyone outside of that,” including restaurants, entertainment venues and small businesses, St. Gerard said.

Speakers, including those from the coalition and the Wheaton advisory committee, discussed how the area could become more walkable through factors such as improved lighting, signage and pedestrian access.

Ash Kosiewicz — communications and advocacy director for the Latino Economic Development Center and lead organizer of the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton — shared some of the concerns the area’s small businesses have voiced in light of redevelopment, including a loss of parking and their ability to pay rent.

With the release of the request for proposals, Marian Fryer — president of the Wheaton Citizens Coalition and member of the urban district advisory committee — said as she walked on the tour that there have been “many starts and stops” in Wheaton’s redevelopment process, but that she is now feeling optimistic.

That sense of optimism, she said, comes from “the fact that we now have an opportunity to get some good proposals, creative proposals, responsible development proposals and go from there and, hopefully, now that the money has been put in place, we won’t have to start over again.”

Del. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, who attended the tour, compared the Wheaton area — where he said he grew up — to Silver Spring.

“People forget how many false starts there were in Silver Spring, and that’s okay,” Waldstreicher said. “There are going to be false starts and now Silver Spring is a great place to have dinner, raise a family, and the same thing will happen in Wheaton.”

For Andy Wexler, of Silver Spring, the tour was a source of information on the community he and his wife are considering moving to and have already visited for years to shop and eat.

“I hope that [redevelopment is] done very carefully,” he said. “There’s so many issues involved and if those issues aren’t dealt with in a very thoughtful and sensitive way, it can cause a lot of damage to a community.”

Photo courtesy of Greg Dohler and The Gazette

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Friends Around Town

Your Friends have been out in the community over the last month and we’re grateful to our partners for engaging us in these fascinating opportunities.  Dan Reed and I were both panelists during a Montgomery Housing Partnership breakfast focused on social media in community engagement.

Montgomery Housing Partnership’s mission is to expand and preserve affordable housing in Montgomery County – something that will become an issue in White Flint if the county truly wants to draw a younger demographic.  MHP doesn’t just advocate, they also walk the talk by “acquiring, rehabilitating, building and managing quality affordable housing.”

061113 white flint

Friends of White Flint was very proud to be part of Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Walking Tours and Forum Series.  ”White Flint: From Drag to Desirable” was the topic that kicked off this season of walking tours – and to a sold out crowd!  Nearly sixty people joined Stewart Schwartz of CSG, Nkosi Yearwood of the Planning Department, Tommy Mann from Federal Realty and me on a beautiful morning’s trek through the past, present and future of White Flint.

The tour was a great way to feel and see the differences between streets that solely car-focused, as opposed to those that consider all travelers.  Features like tree buffers, bike lanes, benches and trash cans equalize priorities among pedestrians, bikers and drivers.  Many of our main White Flint streets still have a long way to go in becoming truly walkable.

Friends of White Flint also hosted a Developer Showcase on April 30th in the Whole Foods Rockville café.  It was an opportunity for the community to browse new projects in White Flint’s future, and meet the people behind the ideas.   Paladar Latin Kitchen, Montgomery County Parks Department (Wall Park), LCOR (North Bethesda Center), Lerner Enterprises (White Flint Mall), and Federal Realty Investment Corp (Pike & Rose) were all available to chat, show their plans and share guacamole.  Friends of White Flint member Chevy Chase Land Company was also present with information about their plans for Chevy Chase Lake.

Over 100 visitors checked out the exciting plans for White Flint and appreciated seeing the images up close.  If you weren’t able to join us that rainy morning, let us know if you’d like us to host a similar event on an upcoming evening!

Finally, Friends of White Flint has begun a monthly presence at the Pike Central Farmers Market!  Find us among the food trucks and produce and learn more about your community while you browse!

And, wherever you see us – don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the plans for White Flint.  We’re here to have a positive and consensus-building conversation.  Join in!

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Testimony: before the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board in support of the Hine Junior High School project

We wish to express our support for the proposed project for the Hine Junior High School site and urge the HPRB to complete its review so that the project can move on to a Planned Unit Development review with the Zoning Commission. The proposed scale and overall design conform to the Capitol Hill Historic District and enhance key historic assets such as L’Enfant square on Pennsylvania Avenue and the market house.