Greater Greater Washington

New McMillan plan blends growth and preservation

The developers of DC's McMillan Sand Filtration Site have listened to community concerns, from open space to traffic to transit, and created a plan for a new community that residents should one day see as a city landmark and a source of civic pride.


Photo by the author.

Envision McMillan released a revised plan in March for the long-awaited redevelopment that will transform the historic, off-limits site. It blends mixed-use office and apartment buildings with ground-floor retail, single-family townhomes, and open space to augment and enhance the surrounding neighborhoods.

As with all development plans of this scope, not everyone in the neighborhood is happy. While the current plan leaves 55% of the site as open space, some want the entire site to be a park. Others want to incorporate urban agriculture and renewable energy production, and a few want development limited to just a grocery store or public market, library and recreation center.

Residents in these camps concerned about development at the site have organized two groups, Friends of McMillan Park and Sustainable McMillan. The groups' leaders claim that Envision McMillan virtually ignored the ideas community members presented in the various public listening sessions.

In fact, the team has significantly altered the plan based on community feedback. It now has much more open space, with 13.55 acres overall, including a 4-acre central park and 8 acres of large, public, open spaces. The team also added a grocery store, a library and a community center.

The plan mixes preservation and growth

Envision McMillan comprises 9 architecture, design, landscape architecture, and consulting firms selected as the site's developer by the DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. The District government bought the site from the federal government in 1987 and has sought to develop it ever since.


Conceptual plan for the site. Image from Envision McMillan.

The majority of the existing above-ground structures on the site would be retained and repurposed. The plan calls for preserving more than one of the underground sand filtration cells for visitors to explore. The historic McMillan Fountain, currently in storage at the adjacent federally-owned McMillan Reservoir, would sit in a prominent location in a public plaza on the site.

The southern row of cylindrical sand silos would form the border between the project's central park and a cluster of row houses, which would match the architecture of the surrounding neighborhood. Stormwater runoff from the site would be completely captured on site by using state-of-the-art runoff management techniques.

Envision McMillan seeks to draw a grocery store and an eclectic mix of local retailers. Developers hope to create approximately 4,000 jobs at all levels as part of new healthcare office space on the northern end (adjacent to the VA hospital and Washington Hospital Center).

Additionally, the city plans to sponsor job-training programs to help District residents qualify for these jobs. 100 housing units will be designated as "affordable senior housing," and a mix of workforce and market-rate housing will be available throughout the site.

The team responds to community concerns

The next step for Envision McMillan and project supporters is to win the public-relations battle by convincing residents of the area, and the entire city, that the current plans represent the most appropriate balance of competing community needs and desires.

Traffic has been a central area of concern for nearby residents. First Street NW, in particular, is often bumper-to-bumper at rush hours between Michigan and New York Avenues, and Bloomingdale residents fear this will get worse once new homes, offices, and shops open up at McMillan. Envision McMillan analyzed current traffic to help create a plan to efficiently move people to and from the site, both by car and by other modes.

The study showed that there are no safe pedestrian crossings of North Capitol Street between Michigan Avenue and Channing Street. The restrictions on left turns from North Capitol onto Michigan from both directions cause more traffic to flow onto neighborhood streets. Cut-through traffic also overtaxes the alleys in the neighboring Stronghold neighborhood.

Envision McMillan's traffic plan calls for building 2 new through streets across the site from North Capitol to First NW, reducing traffic flow on existing neighborhood streets. It also recommends 2 new signalized intersections along North Capitol, and widening the North Capitol and Michigan Avenue intersection. Almost all of the parking on the site would be below ground.

But perhaps more importantly, the plan would enhance access to the site by non-automobile modes, thereby reducing the number of cars that will have to move through the surrounding neighborhoods. It proposes a transit hub on the north end with frequent Circulator buses connecting to the Brookland Metro station, a hiker-biker trail along North Capitol for the length of the site, several new sidewalks, and two Capital Bikeshare stations on the siteone near the grocery store and one in the middle of the mixed-use medical office/retail complex.

Yes, the surrounding neighborhood will feel growing pains as new residents, shoppers, and medical clinic patients move in. But maintaining the site as it is, empty and off-limits to the public, benefits nobody.

The only viable alternative to the status quo is some form of development. Putting this residential and business development in an urban neighborhood where people can take advantage of existing infrastructure at modest incremental cost makes the most economic and environmental sense. The long-term benefits to the region of developing the site in a conscientious way far outweigh the short-term costs.

Envision McMillan has proposed a plan for intelligent development and adapted it around reasonable concerns from the community. The plan will create a desirable place to live, work, and shop that retains both the character of the neighborhood and the uniqueness of this historic site.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC neighborhood of Bloomingdale. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

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Can the Redskins fit a fenced-in practice facility with three surface parking lots in there instead?

by Jack_Evans on May 7, 2012 11:49 am • linkreport

At first glance of the PDF it looks to be about 80% built, with a small park between the row houses and retail locations. There are also two gardens. I'm not sure we should count small spaces and walkways between buildings as "open space." I'm not sure anyone would consider this site, if built as planned, to be mostly (55%) open space.

I'm not for or against the plan, but it certainly doesn't look like only 45% of the project will be built space.

by Tom A. on May 7, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

The park should be consolidated into one 12-acre park rather than the different "olmsted walk" and "healing gardens." You could essentially have a Meridian hill park for this part of town that would preserve the feel of the openness of the site. This breaks it up into too many park units -- and it will be easier to run and program one consolidated space..

by neb on May 7, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

@Tom A: +1.

The 55% figure seems to be a comparison to a single monstrous building that takes up the entire space, up to the property lines -- i.e. 100%. Obviously that is not a helpful way to describe the land use in the plan. It will rankle the neighbors because they will think the developer is either exaggerating or lying about the public space benefits. Ultimately this number is a disservice to the developers because it will offend the people they need to win over.

A better comparison would be to the typical land use in the surrounding areas, which by my eye is about 45% built/55% front gardens, streets and walkways.

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

Saying that 55% of that map is "open space" is insulting. Are you counting streets?

Seriously, I was open to the idea of developing McMillan, but every time I hear a mouthpiece from the developers it seems like they are just trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

by devoe on May 7, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

So...why should a large chunk of this be open space, anyway? What benefits do people seem to expect from open space?

by Gray on May 7, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

OK, I just had a second look at the proposed street grid. It isn't one. This is not smart growth -- it has frontage streets and meandering internal paths and no connections to the existing grid. I think this street layout design is a failure.

The "green roof" thing is pandering. A green roof should sell itself based on air conditioning/ heating costs savings; no need to describe it at this stage.

I hope the developers fix this by describing their proposal in more straightforward terms. People are not stupid.

(BTW, I do not have a dog in this fight.)

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

@Gray:

I just moved into the area, and it suffers from a lack of public parkland a la Rock Creek, the Anacostia Riverfront, or even the Mall. Nowhere to go for a walk beyond the din of the streets. It doesn't even have the squares that dot capitol hill.

Supposedly the McMillan site served as this type of park in the past before it was taken over for water filtration and subsequently locked down (during WWII).

by xmal on May 7, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

@xmal: Is the public banned from the golf course and multiple cemeteries within a half mile of this site?

by Gray on May 7, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

Golf course---I think so: it's part of the armed forces retirement home

Cemeteries---I enjoy cemetery walks, but goth's not for everyone

by xmal on May 7, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

@Gray: cemeteries are nice, but I would say that they are equivalent to a park or open space.

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Developers will not develop land unless there is an economic incentive to do so. No developer would have bid on this or any project if all they could install was a park. The retail, office, and residential components will pay for whatever community ammenities come out of it.
OR you could keep you locked-up dangerous former filtration plant.

by Ward 1er on May 7, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

^would NOT^

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Hats off to Envision McMillan. We need to develop this site. I'm not endorsing every decision made, but we can't dicker around NIMBYing against every little design detail. Let's offer some ideas for improvement, but not stand in the way of this actually happening. Nothing could be worse than the status quo -- valuable land sitting behind a fence.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 7, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Ward 1: is that an argument to submit to whatever a developer want to do?

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

some people will cry about this plan no matter, you will never be able to please everyone with anything thats done in this CITY some ppl dont ever want to see change and some ppl will complain until the project is derailed and some ppl will just go with it and make the most out of the plans, but

by Jerome on May 7, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

The McMillan site is approximately 25 acres. If the post is correct in stating that 12 (8+4) acres of open space (48% of the site), it's not unthinkable for the rain gardens, etc. to make up 7% of the site. Even if we only considered the large continguous open areas, I echo Gray's question of why is it in the best interest of the city to devote 48% of the site to open space?

While including some open space is commendable, it shouldn't come at the expense of density that is necessary to support the proposed retail. With that said, the open space provided should be consolidated into the largest contiguous parcel possible. From an urban design standpoint, it would make sense to put it on the northwest side of the property to draw people past the reatail on their way to use the open space.

To create a parallel between this site and Reservation 13, you could fit ~20 football fields on the 12 acres (if consolidated) devoted to open space.

by jim on May 7, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

The city bought the land, and was looking to pay off its investment. Short of a bond from the neighbors, they would need a developer. A certain level of density (and income to the developer)needs to be achieved to make it worthwhile developing the land. It the neighbors require 80% of it to be a park and a small corner to be a Harris Teeter/Whole Foods/Yes!/Not-Safeway then a developer has no incentive to invest.

by Ward 1er on May 7, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

I hate to be self-promoting, but the solution to the lack of public space that xmal described is to cap the McMillan reservoir, tear down the fence and make it into a public park. You CAN"T develop that, because the lid won't support it, but the sand filtration site can be developed and should be. So you get to have your park and eat it too.

by David C on May 7, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

I'm generally supportive of development at McMillan, though I think it's fair for those who live in the neighborhood or just want to see more quality, infill development to offer critiques, because whatever gets built will be there for a long time, so it might as well be good.

With that said, I think the open spaces are a little overprogrammed, particularly the big park, which will be primarily used by residents of the new development and the surrounding neighborhood. This is where people will want to walk their dogs, let their little kids run around, or have a game of touch football. I'd keep the space as open as possible, maybe with some more informal tree & landscape areas.

The smaller spaces on the north side of the site won't see as much informal use - they're surrounded by office buildings (I think) and next to busy Michigan Avenue - so maybe it makes sense to give them more specific uses, like a farmers' market or something.

by dan reed! on May 7, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

Something that hasn't been discussed too much is the extremely heavy dependance on cars. I know the developers can't do much about that, but the city can. Am I wrong in thinking that a Circulator to the Brookland Metro is NOT the silver (tin, maybe?) bullet? North Cap is a nightmare during rush hour (all hours?) and this is only going to make it much worse.

There needs to be investment in heavy rail - connect Columbia Heights or Petworth to Rhode Island Avenue.

by Shipsa01 on May 7, 2012 1:53 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa01

How about a streetcar line from Woodley Park to Adams Morgan to Columbia Heights to Brookland, all along Calvert St/Columbia Rd/Michigan Avenue?

It's boggled my mind for so long that there's no East-West public transport aside from buses once you get North of Downtown

by Matthew B on May 7, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

@Ward 1er:
I wrote: is that an argument to submit to whatever a developer want to do?

...and then you wrote: A certain level of density (and income to the developer)needs to be achieved to make it worthwhile developing the land. It the neighbors require 80% of it to be a park and a small corner to be a Harris Teeter/Whole Foods/Yes!/Not-Safeway then a developer has no incentive to invest.

So your answer seems to be YES.

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

Isn't the plan already (2nd or 3rd phase) to introduce that E-W line along Michigan? I guess I just wonder if it would / will actually happen.

by Shipsa01 on May 7, 2012 2:16 pm • linkreport

What is the square footage for the "grocery store?" Is it 50,000 sqaure feet, for a true supermarket, or is it going to end up being a small convenience store instead?

by Eckington resident on May 7, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

@David C:

I hate to be self-promoting, but the solution to the lack of public space that xmal described is to cap the McMillan reservoir, tear down the fence and make it into a public park.

So the best possible use of this property is as open space? I fail to see why.

I guess I just don't get why the argument should center around how to create more space that doesn't produce tax revenue in this area, just so that people who moved to a part of the city that doesn't have a large open public space can have one. Did everyone somehow lose the ability to walk/bike/metro to the Mall or Rock Creek Park?

by Gray on May 7, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

is this bowing to whatever the developer wanted?

My impression was that the community concerns were

A. water overflows B. preserving historic structures C. Open Space. D. Not only have multifamily housing E. transportation

seems like water has been dealt with, some historic structures are preserved, it has a pretty reasonable amount of open space, and it has a mix of townhouses and multifamily. Im not sure how effective the new cross streets will be in easing traffic issues, how popular the new CaBi stations will be, or how much impact the circulator bus will have, or what the time table for street cars will be. Altogether, it seems like a compromise.

If the only development were a supermarket, I guess the city would have to pay for any park.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

Gray, perhaps I wasn't clear. The best possible use of the McMillan Reservoir site is as open space. The best use of the McMillan Sand Filtration site is as semi-developed, semi-preserved/open property similar to what has always been proposed here.

by David C on May 7, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

For a site that already has "sand" in the name, I would hope the parks include sand volleyball courts.

by M.V. Jantzen on May 7, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

That proposed development is way too dense. You basically have to asky yourself whether NoMa sandwiched between Bloomingdale and Brookland makes any sense. NoMa makes sense because it's a logical extension of downtown. But this project calls for very high density in a relatively low-density area.

Then there's the fact that there's no Metro. I can't wait until the streetcars come and all of these Washingtonians discover that they're nothing but glorified buses on rails.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

@D.C. citizen: the lack of metro puts the "smart growth" arguments -- higher density is reserved for places near metro -- on its head. The people that will live hear will be car-dependent.

by goldfish on May 7, 2012 2:57 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish - Yeah, but nobody cares about that. People are trying to get paid. There's no comprehensive approach to any of this development. They want to develop not only McMillan, but the Old Soldier's Home and the land owned by the Washington Hospital Center. So the question is: how is all of that going to work without a metro stop? Circulators? Okay, but last I checked, buses don't magically levitate above the traffic on First and North Capitol. Neither do streetcars.

These people want to get in, get out, and get their money. They probably live in Virginia anyway, so what do they care if traffic becomes even more congested in the area? And many of the people who support the plan are getting something out of this deal. Why else would you go around on blogs touting the "merits" of this plan? Even if McMillan gets developed, it doesn't have to be THIS plan with THESE developers.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 3:08 pm • linkreport

Residential is 800 units, the site is 25 acres. thats 32 units per acre, which is higher than an all rowhouse neighborhood, but lower than what is usually considered high density in DC, IIUC. Not necessarily the the density for walking distance to heavy rail. OTOH light rail could make sense, esp. since there is also office use on site.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

"Residential is 800 units, the site is 25 acres. thats 32 units per acre, which is higher than an all rowhouse neighborhood, but lower than what is usually considered high density in DC, IIUC. Not necessarily the the density for walking distance to heavy rail. OTOH light rail could make sense, esp. since there is also office use on site."

But there are also office buildings in the plan, right? That will probably lead to more traffic problems than the residential buildings. Seriously, who uses public transit to get to work at the Washington Hospital? I would guess it's less than five percent of its employees.

And where are they going to put a light rail. North Capitol Street is not wide enough for a dedicated lane. That means that any streetcar/light rail gets stuck in traffic just like the 80 bus.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

There is a difference between smart growth and Transit Oriented Development. Anecdotal evidence, my wife drives to work but since we live in a walkable neighborhood once she's home we don't need the car again to get to anything else. I use the metro but I use it to get to work. Everything else I can reasonably get to via my feet or bike. Smart growth is about putting things in walking distance. TOD is about making sure that you don't need a car for distances beyond that.

Also, I fail to see how a mix of apartment buildings and rowhouses is too dense for an area sandwiched between rowhouses and apartment buildings. Turns out people lived in rowhouses and apartment buildings before the metro was built.

by x on May 7, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

AWalkingInTheCity - I get the density issue, but like someone said before, how is lightrail going to get around traffic? I can't wait for my P6 to sit and sit and ... sit at P and North Capitol every morning, waiting and waiting and waiting - even LONGER - to turn onto NYAve.

Anyway, even though there may not be the density at that particular spot to justify heavy rail, isn't there a definite need to have an E-W line that would justify it? I think GGW had a potential line that went from Friendship Heights down to Cleveland Park (maybe it was Van Ness), over to Columbia Heights (Petworth, maybe?), then down to Rhode Island Avenue (or maybe NYAve Station or Union Station) and then down to Capitol South, Navy Yard, Anacostia, etc.

by Shipsa01 on May 7, 2012 3:20 pm • linkreport

"Everything else I can reasonably get to via my feet or bike. Smart growth is about putting things in walking distance. TOD is about making sure that you don't need a car for distances beyond that."

That's not the full scope of "smart growth." The growth is not "smart" without accounting for the reality that people are bringing cars to the area. And more cars + inadequate public transit options = gridlock. What about that do you consider to be "smart?"

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 3:26 pm • linkreport

"Also, I fail to see how a mix of apartment buildings and rowhouses is too dense for an area sandwiched between rowhouses and apartment buildings. Turns out people lived in rowhouses and apartment buildings before the metro was built."

It's not just "apartment buildings" and "rowhouses." It's possibly eight story condo/apartment buildings AND office buildings. You're making it seem as if people are opposed to the construction of the "Rhode Island" at McMillan. At the end of the day, the development will resemble NoMa more than anything else.

And people didn't always bring cars to neighborhoods 50 years ago. Yes, Washington, DC was a denser city in 1950 than it is now, but you also had more people per household, and fewer cars per household. In 2012, we have fewer people per household, and more cars per household. In a typical DC rowhouse, it's not uncommon for the wife and husband who own the house to have separate cars, as well as the tenant(s) in the basement to have cars. We're talking about way more vehicular traffic than whatever existed in the past.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

"In 2012, we have fewer people per household, and more cars per household."

Don't build parking and people won't drive.

by Adam L on May 7, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

"Don't build parking and people won't drive."

Yeah right. First, I believe that the District requires all new buildings of a certain size to have parking. So that's not going to happen. Second, nobody wants to live in a building that doesn't offer parking. You just can't fall of out of your aparment in most DC neighborhoods and be in the middle of it all. Bloomingdale will never be the West Village no matter how much you may want it to be.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

What is the scope of smart growth outside of "building things in a way that promotes pedestrian/cycling/transit" that I'm missing?

Why does transit have to come before the people? Even looking at our own metro system, most stations were built because people were already there. This has been the pattern of all transit (bus and rail) lines. You may disagree with why that is but it seems to make sense to me.

Finally, people will bring cars but they may drive less overall (again, anecdotally I drive less even though when I moved here I added 1 more car to the population). Most of the residential parking will be off the street. While I could certainly envision a plan and endorse something that drastically reduces the need for a vehicle I suspect many would have a problem with that amount of density.

In short, if you're in favor of putting some sort of development on the site then you'll have to accept a non-zero amount of increase in vehicles. You can mitigate but you can't avoid it entirely.

by x on May 7, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

"Yeah right. First, I believe that the District requires all new buildings of a certain size to have parking. So that's not going to happen."

Perhaps you're new here, so you may not be aware that DC is undergoing a massive zoning rewrite that will eliminate many of the parking requirements. In the meantime, exceptions have been given to many properties that otherwise would have required more parking, including areas that are not directly served by Metrorail.

"Second, nobody wants to live in a building that doesn't offer parking."

Development patterns in DC over the last 20 years have proven that to be categorically false.

"Bloomingdale will never be the West Village no matter how much you may want it to be."

Bloomingdale can and should be Bloomingdale. I have no love for the West Village, nor much of NYC for that matter. However, being able to walk to the grocery store and other retail, possibly walk to work, and being able to take transit with improved bus service and hopefully median-separated street cars is a good goal, even if it's not Manhattan.

by Adam L on May 7, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

"Why does transit have to come before the people? Even looking at our own metro system, most stations were built because people were already there. This has been the pattern of all transit (bus and rail) lines. You may disagree with why that is but it seems to make sense to me."

The issue is the sheer volume of cars. It's not practical for many people to live at McMillan without a car and have the option of walking to (a) the parking lot across the street at the Washington Hospital Center or (b) the fenced off Reservoir along First Street. People are going to want to go places and they are going to bring cars. A lot of cars.

The issue is NOT people per se. It's the cars that people bring with them.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

I live 1 block south of Mcmillan. I think the parking and traffic is a complete red herring. The traffic is already heavily along 1st, north capital, channing and bryant. I dont think a few hundred more people living there, and a couple thousand working there are going to significantly increase the car count during rush hour. Besides, I think it will keep the area safer for pedestrians. It can put more people walking on 1st street, bryant bewtween 1st and 2nd NW, as well as moving high speed cross traffic off Bryant and Channing. Also, the additon of parkland and retail to the north end of bloomingdale is very welcome. It would allow me to walk to get groceries. Right now, I have to ride my bike to the store, or bring groceries on the 80 bus from the harris teeter on 1st NE.

by Eric on May 7, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps you're new here, so you may not be aware that DC is undergoing a massive zoning rewrite that will eliminate many of the parking requirements. In the meantime, exceptions have been given to many properties that otherwise would have required more parking, including areas that are not directly served by Metrorail."

New to this site? I was born and raised in Washington, DC.

These are all new projects that contain parking:

Loree Grand
Capitol Yards
NoMa Station
Constitution Square
Senate Square
The Ellington
Yale Lofts
City Vista

These are just projects I can name off the top of my head. Hmm...where are these projects that don't include parking. Even if the city won't require it in the future, that does not stop developers from building it.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

So you're in favor of bringing the people and not the cars? Great! Then I have two points.

1. There are ways to design for people and not cars. Most of those ways would actually make it more dense than whats currently being proposed.

2. We really can't help what a private developer decides is enough parking. There are ways to deal with that as well. However, the gov't isn't really the best vehicle to decide on how much parking should be there anyway. The DC government could also plan the site itself but again, thats a commitment of DC resources that may not be used in the best way.

3. (sorry I lied) I don't see how this has to be 100% either way. You seem to think that its inevitable that there will be something close to a 1:1 ratio of cars that will lead to a similar increase in traffic. I can't understand where you're coming from since it seems ludicrous to expect added population at 0 cars added. I wish it weren't true but it is what it is and the reasonable response is to plan in a way that people don't need a vehicle as much. Building densely helps accomplish that and bolsters the transit support needed to make it even better.

by X on May 7, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

"Hmm...where are these projects that don't include "parking.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/13317/parking-free-mixed-use-building-is-right-for-tenleytown/

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

WRT transit, I would argue that DC OP dropped the ball on this a long time ago.

I kept arguing during the Brookland Small Area Planning Process (which commenced in 2007) that the plan should make recommendations that approvals for development at McMillan and the AFRH (and increases if need be at the Hospital Center) be tied to, and include proffers from developers, investment in the construction of the proposed "crosstown" streetcar line from Woodley Park to Brookland (I think it should be extended in each direction but that's another argument altogether).

Plus, the Washington Hospital Center is a leading activity center in the city, and the biggest one without direct/adjacent subway access.

OP declined to put this recommendation in the plan, even after the point was made again in separate testimony.

Legitimately, Brooklanders complaining about the variety of development projects likely to occur are right that for development away from the subway station catchment area, new projects are far more likely to generate car trips.

It wouldn't have to be that way if the crosstown streetcar line had been prioritized, and proffers been required.

With regard to the block layout, it's a shame that the street network doesn't line up with the roads on the east side of North Capitol St.

by Richard Layman on May 7, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

With regard to the block layout, it's a shame that the street network doesn't line up with the roads on the east side of North Capitol St.

I agree, but from looking at the site plan, it would appear that the reason for this is the location of the historic towers. If you preserve all of them, that more or less is the primary determinant of the kind of block organization you'll need.

by Alex B. on May 7, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

I think it's time we stop picking at this plan that's been 5+ years in development, with multiple community meetings and opportunities for input. The developers have listened to all the concerns and to the best of their ability and within reason, addressed the issues in the plan. It's time to put shovel to dirt and get this project started!

by Tom on May 7, 2012 4:47 pm • linkreport

@ X - I never said I was in favor of bringing the people. I did say, however, that if you're going to bring the people, then you need to bring adequate public transit options as well. And a circulator bus is not an adequate public transit option.

1. You could easily design McMillan to be car-free. But why would a developer do that when they can make more money by selling parking?

2. The best thing the DC Government can do is take a step back and think about the development of the larger area, and not focus on the piecemeal development of individual parcels of land. It's not JUST about McMillan; it's also about all of the other stuff that's either being built or proposed to be built in the surrounding areas.

3. Why are you making my position out to be so extreme? That's not what I said. I just said that if you're going to build another NoMa (which I think is terrible), then you should have Metro service. Simple.

The bigger thing to think about is why there's such a compulsion to move forward with THIS particular plan. The city could open the bidding process and allow designers from Kyoto to Helsinki to present creative, alternative designs for the property. But apparently the whole neighborhood will explode if a deal is not approved by the Council by 2013.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

Well if you don't want the area to be a place where people live thats fine. But don't code it in questions like "why aren't they building a metro here?" or "how will they account for the parking?" or cry foul about this iteration of the plan when this is not something out of the dark.

And frankly, to come up with a more interesting urban landscape the city would have been better off dividing the area into small plots and selling them individually. But again thats a complicated thing to do and there is more risk involved.

And it is extreme (though you can view it positively or negatively) to say that any development should come with no changes to the amount of cars on the road.

Anyway, basically I don't see why there has to be a metro station in order to have a successful neighborhood. Or why the impact on car traffic is the sole determinant of success.

by X on May 7, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

Good question: Why is the city rushing this particular plan? Why does it have to be built on the McMillan site? Why do we have to settle for VMP as the developers? I thought they were hired by the city to just be "consultants"? Sounds like money, deadline bonuses, backdoor deals, etc. might be the driving force, not the community's needs.

Opening up the bidding process is a great idea! Also, why can't VMP move it's development plans to Rhode Island, where the community would be happy to have them & there's a metro?

by Bloomingdale Resident on May 7, 2012 5:10 pm • linkreport

@Bloomingdale Resident: I agree! Opposition by a few nearby residents should be more than enough justification for telling the developers to go elsewhere. Or at the very least, we should start the whole process over from the start. There's no sense in doing anything rash, like before 2025.

After all, this plan was developed overnight, with no input at all from anyone. Right?

by Gray on May 7, 2012 5:14 pm • linkreport

"Well if you don't want the area to be a place where people live thats fine. But don't code it in questions like "why aren't they building a metro here?" or "how will they account for the parking?" or cry foul about this iteration of the plan when this is not something out of the dark."

I didn't say that I was in favor of bringing NO people, either. I simply said that the public transit should be commensurate with the number of bodies on the site.

"And frankly, to come up with a more interesting urban landscape the city would have been better off dividing the area into small plots and selling them individually. But again thats a complicated thing to do and there is more risk involved."

I don't follow this reasoning.

"And it is extreme (though you can view it positively or negatively) to say that any development should come with no changes to the amount of cars on the road."

Please quote me where I said that "any development should come with NO changes to the amount of cars on the road." Again, I said that there should be a Metro stop given the sheer density of the development. It makes absolutely no sense to build the Second NoMa and not have a Metro stop there.

My objections to the current proposal are not one-dimensional. First, I think the proposal is dumb because there's a better use for the property than condo and office buildings (I know shiny offices are a true rarity in DC indeed). Second, I think that the proposal does not address transportation issues. If you're going to build something like that, then you should at least do it right.

I'm not against development. I'm just against bad and stupid development.

by D.C. Citizen on May 7, 2012 5:30 pm • linkreport

Alex B. -- ummm, very good point. Oops.

by Richard Layman on May 7, 2012 6:02 pm • linkreport

ALL CONCERNED:

Please take a look at this add from April 21, 2006 and ask yourself. Why didn't they develop this site at the height of the real estate boom in DC? Cost!?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/21/AR2006042101819.html

Some people have lost their minds over the possibility of developing this site. If it were economically to do so, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE ALREADY. The U.S. Corps of Engineers offered the site to the city for roughly a $1.00 years ago, if the city promised to allow it to be maintained as a park. Instead, the greedy suckers paid several million dollars [I believe it was approximately $9 million] for the possibility of developing a site that CANNOT be developed without significant capital investments, and in this case, federal money. I've heard estimates of $1 to $2 million an acre just to prepare a site, that has deem historic since 1991 and sits adjacent to a city Reservoir. I hope that private developers are not going to risk that level of money when there are scores of empty condos units across the city – Mint, Yale, Ashton, Floridian, Mass Court, I could go on…

These developers want and need neighbors to DEMAND its development because they need federal backing and support. I, for one, am against it. I am also against condos and shops on Crispus Attucks Park, the Park at LeDroit, and Soldier's Home. McMillan was built to be a Reservoir and a Park! Develop it as a park, or leave it be.

Forget storm water for a minute -- which I think will be a nightmare -- and tell me what will the impact be of hundreds of additional housing units and retail developments be on traffic and parking, on First Street, Michigan Avenue and North Capitol. What will the impact be in the morning when all these new neighbors wake up, start their cars and pull out on to the existing streets to get to daycare, school, and work!? What will their impact be on all of those hospital workers now rushing to work on those very same streets. How much additional traffic will there be from the addition of scores of shops and/or restaurants into this congested traffic area that already has poor traffic flow and public transportation support. This is not Columbia Road and 14th Street, NW which quick frankly has terribly problems despite the fact that the streets are one-way and despite the fact that the main complex sits atop a subway station.

Back to storm water. I am cynically going to say that few people looking that this site, who wish to develop it, are unbiased enough to provide an honest assessment of the potential hazards of removing an enormous tons of dirt and sand off of an evaluated field that is above ALL of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park and next to a city Reservoir. That dirt and sand acts like a gigantic sponge which significally slows down the follow of water to the lowering lying streets in the neighborhood during major storms. Trust me, the Corps of Engineers accessed those implications, and they recommended that the city keep the entire site as a park! Those of us who have lived in the area for more than a few years are familiar with flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park. Indeed, all of these homes were built with root cellar basements and narrow entrances because a century ago when builders who had no electricity and sump pumps, they were not as eager to challenge Mother Nature as their arrogant 20th Century descendants. Modern developers can BS the general public and tell them that everything will be alright; but they could not BS the the Corps of Engineers! They need and want the federal government's blessing and backing to alleviate, if not eliminate, the potential liability if they screw it up and the errors result in massive flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park's now developed "English basements."

Likewise, they cannot assure us it will not negatively affect the Reservoir, which though only a backup to the far NW facility, is undoubtedly a fail-safe that Congress is not willing to endanger to enrich a few greedy developers or mollify a few neighborhoods who insist on convenient suburban-style shopping.

May I humbly suggest that instead of developing McMillan, these efforts should be focused on a Georgia Avenue Development Plan. A similar plan was created for Pennsylvania Avenue after the 1968 riots.

V/R

Concerned Neighbor.

by Concerned Neighbor on May 7, 2012 6:08 pm • linkreport

People really need to stop worrying about traffic and parking. Parking is not a right, and the traffic count on North capitol street is at such a high volume, a few more cars per minute wont be significant. In addition, the higher density give a greater push to either improve the 80 bus line, the crosstown buses, or alternative transit.

Lets not forget that many Howard students live in the area and most will not be driving alot.

by Eric on May 7, 2012 6:23 pm • linkreport

Concerned Neighbor,
McMillan was not built to be a park! It was developed as a worksite...a water filtration plant for the city, and never intended to be a public park. The tenuous cell structures underground were not designed to support any sort of foot traffic above, and are now crumbling from years of decay and water damage and even more dangerous. And what would you leave it be...an inaccessible, barbed-wire fenced off plot of unusable land that offers no benefit to the local community or neighborhood?

Regarding the potential traffic issues...of course there will be more, but you can't expect anyone to develop a site in a remote location that no one can get to. And yes, perhaps the site will cause Metro to recognize the need for more bus or Circulator service to this part of the city.

by Tom on May 7, 2012 6:37 pm • linkreport

Wasn't this a Frederick Olmstead-designed park?

by Tom Coumaris on May 7, 2012 7:03 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

The walking path and areas around the reservoir were designed by Olmstead (and are now sealed off behind security fencing), but not the sand filtration site.

by Adam L on May 7, 2012 7:28 pm • linkreport

Wikipedia says Olmstead designed that too:

""Tower-like sand bins covered in greenery as designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.""

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMillan_Sand_Filtration_Site

Strange there was no mention of it being an Olmstead-designed park in such a long article.

by Tom Coumaris on May 7, 2012 8:03 pm • linkreport

@Tom

I'm not so sure that's right. The DC historic places register notes that the reservoir park was designed by Olmsted but that the filtration portion was the work of Allen Hazen. Other than that uncited caption on Wikipedia, I haven't read anywhere that Olmsted designed the "functional" portion of the McMillan site.

by Adam L on May 7, 2012 10:01 pm • linkreport

Whoops... forgot the link to the Inventory of Historic Sites: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/Historic+Preservation/Maps+and+Information/Landmarks+and+Districts/Inventory+of+Historic+Sites/Alphabetical+Edition

When oh when will DC.gov rid us of these ridiculous URLs?

by Adam L on May 7, 2012 10:06 pm • linkreport

To summarize Concerned Neighbor's concerns

1. This was originally designed as a park and we should not change plans no matter what
2. Traffic and parking
3. Storm water

The first point is debatable as Adam L notes and is moot. The site where the archives is used to be a slave market, but now it isn't anymore. The city should change when it makes sense to do so.

And neither of the other concerns is particularly worrisome. We know how to deal with each of these issues.

His comment reads like a bolierplate NIMBY letter.

Part 1: It's too expensive
Part 2: It will change things, and we should not do that.
Part 3: OMG, where will we park - and all the cars!
Part 4: The environment!
Part 5: There is a better place for this. I'm not against this, I'm just against it being near me.

If they had just mentioned "the children" or crime I would have filled my Bingo card.

by David C on May 7, 2012 10:11 pm • linkreport

Final word from me,
Of course transit should come but we should a. Recognize what's there and b. use real solutions rather than demand a metro that no one has seriously suggested nor is it necessary for the site to be a success. And with that then good plans and design should still be pursued. I disagree that this is inherently a bad plan for the site.

by X on May 7, 2012 11:20 pm • linkreport

I'm not sold on the need for a retail center there. Bloomingdale is already going to be well-served by the new Rhode Island Row together with the Home Depot/Giant shopping center behind it and the half-empty "Forman Mills" shopping center (why did that nice new Safeway close?). Georgia Avenue on the other side should be rebuilt with more retail. Another car-oriented retail center here seems not especially critical.

OTOH if it was that other Olmstead park up in NYC I certainly be for paving it over. Manhattan is critically short of space and building on it would certainly help increase density and livability there. Maybe they could get a WalMart with a big parking lot. Imagine the increased urbanism.

by Tom Coumaris on May 8, 2012 12:17 am • linkreport

@ Jack_Evans...don't play with me Jack. LOL!
@ [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]
@DC citizen...[Deleted] it's not high density and by build more dense developments while perserving open space is smart growth and help DC with affordable housing as by 2020 will be 78,000 housing units short which will increase housing prices and taxes on those houses. [Deleted]
@concerned Neighbor---[Deleted]. first we have the lowest level of inventory of houses in the District and probably in the US since we have a good job market for educated people. [Deleted] Furthermore [deleted] about the storm water. The site now doesn't help in run off [deleted] it's cover in cemet right now and is probably adding to the storm water problem [deleted]! And develop it as a park, sure if you are willing to pay the $70 million needed to do that along witht the $1million a year for maintence then go for it. [Deleted]. DC has be trying to develop this land for 30 years, but [deleted] have stop it over and over for 30 years...be prepare for many in the community to help push this development. [Deleted].

@ Tom,Eric and Gray....[Deleted] Please come out and voice your opinions because [deleted] could stop this debelopment for the 3rd time. enough is enough. It's a good plan that gives residents mostly everything we could expect from a mulit-use development.

by Barrie Daneker on May 8, 2012 7:34 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Truxton on May 8, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

"It makes absolutely no sense to build the Second NoMa and not have a Metro stop there"

Does someone know the actual number of sq ft of office space proposed for McMillan. Im pretty sure its way lower in both office space per acre, and number of residences per acre, than NoMa is.

BTW aint it interesting that NoMa is now the poster child for high density?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

"The DC historic places register notes that the reservoir park was designed by Olmsted but that the filtration portion was the work of Allen Hazen."

That's not what it says.

The entry appears on Page 96 and says the following:

Filtration Complex (Pumping Station, Circulating Conduit, Gatehouse, Intake Gatehouse, Control House, Filtration Beds, Sand Washers, Sand Binds, and Clear Water Reservoir): Unified complex of red brick buildings, Flemish bond with tile roofs, and more utilitarian concrete structures; includes underground slow sand purification system advocated by the city's medical community in preference to chemical treatment; built 1904-05 (Allen Hazen, architect)

McMillan Park: Built 1906-1913 (Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.)

Where in that document does it say that the "reservoir park" was designed by Olmsted? And Olmsted obviously would not design an entire sand filtration system seeing that he was only a LANDSCAPE architect.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

Full disclosure: I wrote this post, and I have absolutely no financial stake in the project. I'm just a concerned Bloomingdale resident who happens to support VMP's plan.

There is always the possibility of further improvements on the traffic and stormwater fronts. I think bus service to the site once it's developed (from Brookland Metro, from the south along North Capitol, and from the west along Michigan Avenue) should definitely be improved as quickly as possible, followed by building a cross-town streetcar serving the area within 10-20 years, and maybe eventually a cross-town Metrorail line.

The development should definitely be designed in such a way that residents are discouraged from (a) having cars and (b) if they do have cars, using them for most trips, and that commuters and shoppers coming in have plenty of viable non-auto ways to get there.

by Malcolm K. on May 8, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

You could reserve much more of the mcmillan space if you took a larger view of development in the area and looked at things such as the on-story Le Petit building, the VA parking garage, the Irving/North Capitol interchange, the Catholic owned parking lots and the like. You could then reserve more, or at least a good half of this site for park.

by neb on May 8, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

Malcolm K: The development should definitely be designed in such a way that residents are discouraged from (a) having cars and

From personal experience, the city already does plenty to discourage cars. If you don't need one, you probably don't own one. But I think you are doing the future homeowners of this cite a disservice to suggest that "they should not own cars" -- if they need them for whatever reason, they should have them -- just like the other people that own the 275,000 registered cars in DC.

It is better to use the carrot than the stick. Enable car-free life by providing transit, than to hassle people from owning cars.

by goldfish on May 8, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

"DC citizen...[Deleted] it's not high density and by build more dense developments while perserving open space is smart growth and help DC with affordable housing as by 2020 will be 78,000 housing units short which will increase housing prices and taxes on those houses."

"Smart growth" is one of those buzz words that needs to go the way of Harry Thomas, Jr.'s political career...straight down the toilet.

DC will not be 78,000 housing units short by 2020. But even assuming that that will be the case, that still does not justify the demolition of a site that has already been accorded historic status by the D.C. Preservation League. Especially when developers seemingly find new lots to build on every day (i.e., Yale Lofts, Jenkins Row, Butterfield House, NoMa Station, Landmark Lofts, Loree Grand, Washington Gateway, Monroe Street Market, Senate Square, 50 Florida Avenue, Capitol Yards, Union Row, the Floridian, etc.). See how easy that was? For a city where open land for development is supposedly scarce, we sure do see a lot of development on open lots that supposedly do not exist.

I can think of a number of vacant lots all around the city (several near the stadium, behind Hechinger Mall, the Flea Market on U Street, etc.) that could easily be (and should be) developed. So land scarcity is not really an issue, particularly in light of the fact that denser cities such as Boston and San Francisco are STILL BUILDING and manage to do so without the demolition of historic sites.

So again, why THIS site and THIS plan when (1) there are other places to build and (2) other parts of the city have expressed interest in having this scale of development in their neighborhoods?

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

It is better to use the carrot than the stick. Enable car-free life by providing transit, than to hassle people from owning cars.

It is better to use the carrot - but the single biggest thing that enables car-free or car-lite living is density. Likewise, having density makes it much easier to add in more transit service.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

@Alex B: the single biggest thing that enables car-free or car-lite living is density

(Let me repeat that I do not have dog in this fight.)

That is a overly simple way to approach this, to suggest that increasing density is the answer for the environmental ills of our day, given that the public transportation connections are not available to those that will be living there.

by goldfish on May 8, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

"You could reserve much more of the mcmillan space if you took a larger view of development in the area and looked at things such as the on-story Le Petit building, the VA parking garage, the Irving/North Capitol interchange, the Catholic owned parking lots and the like. You could then reserve more, or at least a good half of this site for park."

The process SHOULD work that way. But that's not how it goes down. The developers have been promised THIS site by elected (and unelected) city officials. I'm sure someone has been "selected" to develop the Old Soldier's Home, and Walter Reed, etc. as well. Developers are naturally myopic and are only concerned about their bottom line. It makes no difference to them whether the neighborhood gets world-class architecture or the next Largo Town Center because they get paid either way. They only care about moving units.

The city has stated that it's willing to commit $50 million to this project. You can't tell me with a straight face that developers from all over the country, and the world, would not submit bids to develop McMillan with that kind of subsidy. It's funny how so many people want DC to be a "world-class" city, but yet when the opportunity arises for a truly world-class amenity, people opt for suburban office park instead.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

That is a overly simple way to approach this,

Of course it is! It was a 34-word blog post comment, not a PhD dissertation.

That said, density is still a critical element. It's not the sole factor (and who suggested it was?), but it's a necessary condition.

It also makes solving many of the problems people have with development possible, as counter-intuitive as it may seem. Density might generate more trips, but it can actually end up generating fewer driving trips because the density provides a market for on-site retail, which means more trips are met via walking on-site, etc.

Transit can be improved, we can run more buses - but it's very hard to make the case for that level of service without more (you guessed it!) density. We also have lots of neighborhoods in DC right now that are just as dense, not near a Metro, and somehow don't descend into traffic armageddon.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

Fact: The continued opposition to the project, despite all the concessions given, is an exercise in posturing. We have a couple ANC Reps that are more concerned with making a name for themselves, imposing their own world view, and exerting what little power they have, by being completely unwavering in their opposition.

This is evident in their rambling missives that claim to speak for the entire "community".

I dont even like this plan that much, it could easily combine all of the green space in one area to make a park and make the plan a lot better.

However, the opponents in my neighborhood dont want that - they want wind mills, a community farm, and who knows what else. Its a strange world where a mixed use proposal is inferior to a plan that would leave most of it closed off to the public, but the proponents of this plan claim the mixed use proposal isnt opening it up to the "community".

Its all bullshit.

by Anon on May 8, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

If this goes ahead, make them build the community center first. Henson Ridge is still waiting for theirs, which would make an enormous difference in neighborhood quality and safety, and a 10,000 sq. ft. one was part of their original plan too.
http://www.housingfinance.com/ahf/articles/2007/aug/HENSON0807.htm

And the building of Henson Ridge increased density in my area...plus the new Giant, etc....I have not seen improvements in public transportation, just fare increases. Given the increases in taxi and Metro fares, this DC resident is actually considering buying a car for the first time in her 50 years.

So, for any aspect of this project that has "public goods" as an element, if you don't get it up front, it probably won't happen.

by advice from east of the river on May 8, 2012 11:03 am • linkreport

"It also makes solving many of the problems people have with development possible, as counter-intuitive as it may seem. Density might generate more trips, but it can actually end up generating fewer driving trips because the density provides a market for on-site retail, which means more trips are met via walking on-site, etc."

First, most people who live in the densest areas of the city still have cars. And they drive them (that's why even the Whole Foods on P Street has a parking lot). DC is not (and never will be) NYC where you literally do not need a car for anything.

Second, I think that the development would be hella convenient for people actually living on the site, but provide very little convenience for people not living within its immediate vicinity. Someone living at 1st and Seaton will drive to a grocery store at McMillan just like they drive to the Giant on Rhode Island. The majority of folks not living at McMillan will be driving to a grocery store either way.

"We also have lots of neighborhoods in DC right now that are just as dense, not near a Metro, and somehow don't descend into traffic armageddon."

Those neighborhoods also don't have people commuting there for work.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 11:08 am • linkreport

@DC Citizen

First, most people who live in the densest areas of the city still have cars.

Citation please? ~617,000 people live in DC. DC has less than 250,000 vehicles registered - and that's for the entire district, not for just the densest parts.

Second, I think that the development would be hella convenient for people actually living on the site, but provide very little convenience for people not living within its immediate vicinity. Someone living at 1st and Seaton will drive to a grocery store at McMillan just like they drive to the Giant on Rhode Island.

First and Seaton is fairly far away - to Channing (and the southern boundary of the site) is half a mile, and to Michigan it's 0.8 miles - but nothing compares to the Giant on RI Ave - that's 1.5 miles away from First and Seaton.

The majority of folks not living at McMillan will be driving to a grocery store either way.

Again, do you have a citation for that claim?

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@Alex B: 36.93% of DC households do not have a car. Thus: 63.07% -- most -- DC household DO have at least one car. Given that many people in these households are either too young or too infirm to drive, I'll let you figure out if that means "most people don't have a car."

by goldfish on May 8, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

37% of DC households have zero cars, and I would guess that car ownership is somewhat more widespread in less dense areas - in lower income less dense areas (EOTR?) density and income would offset each other, but in high income less dense areas (much of upper NW) they reinforce each other, so I would guess in those places carfree is much less common. Of course the lowest rates of car ownership will be in dense places close to a metro.

The numbers also seem to imply that many or most households that do have cars are carlite - fewer cars than licensed drivers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 11:43 am • linkreport

"Citation please? ~617,000 people live in DC. DC has less than 250,000 vehicles registered - and that's for the entire district, not for just the densest parts."

So that's why all of these new buildings have parking garages, right? If the demand for cars in these areas was not great, then developers simply would not build the spaces. It would be a waste of money.

"First and Seaton is fairly far away - to Channing (and the southern boundary of the site) is half a mile, and to Michigan it's 0.8 miles - but nothing compares to the Giant on RI Ave - that's 1.5 miles away from First and Seaton."

What are you talking about? Who other than you and your friends who sip soy milk lattes at the Big Bear Cafe are going to walk half a mile or even a mile to go grocery shopping? The new Harris Teeter is about half a mile from Eckington and most people still drive there. Once you're in a car, there's not much of a difference between 0.8 miles and 1.5 miles.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

Ok, but the language matters. Households are not people.

DC Citizen wrote: "most people who live in the densest areas of the city still have cars."

Key words: people have cars (plural). Multiple individuals, owning multiple cars. The facts are that most individuals do not have cars. DC's average household size is more than 2 people.

Finally, there's the impact - what people are really concerned about is the traffic, right? Provide density and you won't have the traffic, since people won't need to use their cars for those common trips.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

@DC Citizen

So that's why all of these new buildings have parking garages, right? If the demand for cars in these areas was not great, then developers simply would not build the spaces. It would be a waste of money.

Developers would build less if they weren't required to build as much as they do. It is often a waste of money (see DC USA's parking garage), but they are often required to build based on zoning codes or financing requirements.

What are you talking about? Who other than you and your friends who sip soy milk lattes at the Big Bear Cafe are going to walk half a mile or even a mile to go grocery shopping? The new Harris Teeter is about half a mile from Eckington and most people still drive there. Once you're in a car, there's not much of a difference between 0.8 miles and 1.5 miles.

I guess I didn't understand your point. If you're not going to walk that distance, then why are you concerned about the traffic if you live that far away?

Again, density is good. Density helps solve all of these problems. That's how cities work. Density is efficient, by definition (more stuff in a smaller area). It works.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 11:51 am • linkreport

"Who other than you and your friends who sip soy milk lattes at the Big Bear Cafe are going to walk half a mile or even a mile to go grocery shopping? "

Wow, kulturkampf mode in full, eh?

I live in Fairfax county, and I often walk a half mile to get groceries. And its not even a particularly nice walk.

But I guess I'm one of those soy milk loving commies out to destroy our precious heritage of driving, drinking full fat milk, and getting coronaries.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 11:52 am • linkreport

@Alex B: for the purposes of this thread, it is household that matter. Houses are what developer will sell, to be bought and lived in by families and other non-standard living arrangements, and the people that live in these households will own and share cars. The people that can afford to buy these places can afford a car. And given the transportation option that will be available to them, they surely will need and want one, and the developer will surely recognize the need and provide parking.

The grocery will also attract drivers. So this development will definitely be car-dependent.

by goldfish on May 8, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

To those who have said in several places that the Sand Filtration Site was not meant to part of the Olmsted-designed landscape of McMillan Park (which includes both the Reservoir and the Sand Site), I have to tell you that you are wrong both in terms of the history and the local knowledge. The reports that I have read about McMillan make clear that McMillan Park both sides of First Street had landscapes designed by the Olmsted firm and that they were both open to the public as recreation spaces. The National Association of Olmsted Parks agrees and recently said so in a letter to the Historic Preservation Review Board.

But more compelling to me are the eyewitness accounts I have from life-long residents who have told me specifically that they not only went to what is now the DC-owned Sand Filtration Site to play, but also that they slept outside on top of the sand cells in the summer to catch a few breezes that the lower parts of Bloomingdale did not receive. So I hope we can lay aside the misleading information that recreation was not part of this site. It was a hybrid use space, one where industry and recreation were combined and co-existed harmoniously until 1942.

The other misleading point that needs to be disposed of is that the ground above the cells is not capable of supporting a park with people on it. Anyone who believes that either has not been on the site (as 350 people were in mid-April for tours) or chooses to deny reality. The green roof over the sand cells is at least 3 ft thick and more than capable of handling a whole array of human activity.

The only subsidence that has occurred on the site is where a stream runs underneath the site and has undermined its integrity. During the years that the Army Corps maintained the site, such undermining did not occur and no subsidence occurred. Only in the time that the city has had ownership of the site and no appropriate maintenance has been done has the stream undermined the structure along North Capitol street to cause collapse.

And let me also note that the VMP plan wishes to build homes over that very same underground stream that is undermining the existing structure.

by John Salatti on May 8, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish

If you insist on talking in false dichotomies (a single parking space makes it car-dependent! Everyone drives or no one drives!), then you're not going to get a productive discussion.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

Nice to see people getting into their respective corners with the loaded language and all.

There is a way to build dense, urban neighborhoods, including around McMillan while preserving a very large share of this site as a park for its recreational, cultural and historical significance to the city. This plan does not do that, and there is equally less merit in plans for total preservation/wind farm/"we are not NYC" NIMBYism.

It is clear to me that while it wouldn't be that hard to come up with a pretty good plan, that developers and the city continue to do just the opposite.

by neb on May 8, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

Alex B: If you insist on talking in false dichotomies (a single parking space makes it car-dependent! Everyone drives or no one drives!), then you're not going to get a productive discussion.

Please re-read what I wrote. It is nothing like the way you have described it.

I do insist that the transportation needs of this development are portrayed realistically, given the arteries and public transportation network that will connect to it.

by goldfish on May 8, 2012 12:57 pm • linkreport

"Provide density and you won't have the traffic, since people won't need to use their cars for those common trips."

You're missing the point that people go to places other than a grocery store. Nobody is going to move to McMillan and ONLY walk to places. And nobody is going to move to a relatively isolated development and rely EXCLUSIVELY on a circulator bus. That's wishful thinking.

And you're missing the point that more office buildings will also bring more traffic to the neighborhood. Those nurses who live in Upper Marlboro, Clinton and Hyattsville will not be taking a streetcar or the Circulator to the Washington Hospital Center. They drive to work now; they'll drive to work once the site is completed.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

"I guess I didn't understand your point. If you're not going to walk that distance, then why are you concerned about the traffic if you live that far away?"

First of all, I don't live that far away. I live in Bloomingdale. My point was simply that more density is not going to provide everyone living in the neighborhood the easy-peasy walkable lifestyle you were talking about. Sure, if you live on McMillan or on Channing Street, you might get that, but most people are not trying to walk from 1st and U or 2nd and V to McMillan to run daily errands. In all likelihood, they will still use a car for most of their errands.

Second, people who live farther away from the site still have good reason to be concerned. Bloomingdale is not the only neighborhood that's affected by the hospital's traffic.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

how many people in bloomingdale are car free now? Im too lazy to look up the census data, but I imagine its not zero. Would that number increase with more retail nearby? and with improved bus service?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 1:45 pm • linkreport

okay, I looked, and if i read the census data right, in 2009 over 25% of households in tract 33.01, which is Bloomingdale, had zero vehicles. So I guess quite a few people do use walking, biking, and buses for all their daily needs even now (I suppose some may use Zipcar sometimes). I would imagine that would increase with more retail development and better bus service.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

Has anyone read (have they even been done?) studies on uses of Peapod-type services (grocery store delivery trucks)? and whether that affects people needing cars now?

by Shipsa01 on May 8, 2012 2:10 pm • linkreport

"how many people in bloomingdale are car free now?"

Not many.

"Would that number increase with more retail nearby? and with improved bus service?"

Not really. Bloomingdale is not like U Street or Columbia Heights where you have a true commercial corridor. That means that all of the retail would be concentrated in a single, self-contained place that's not really within walking distance for many people. It's one thing to walk to McMillan on a lazy Saturday afternoon for a site tour. It's another thing to walk up there to buy a cup of coffee before work in the morning. It's not going to provide that type of convenience for the majority of people in Bloomingdale.

You also have to consider what people at McMillan will have to walk to. To the East, we have a happening neighborhood full of rowhouses and senior citizens in Stronghold. To the North is the sprawled out Washington Hospital Complex. To the West is a fenced off reservoir that's still in operation. To the Northeast is Park Place, which is a low-density, gated development that requires you to cross 6 lanes of speeding traffic to access it.

In short, you're simply not going to be able to recreate the Dupont Circle/U Street/Adams-Morgan experience in Bloomingdale. Sure, you could have a relatively self-contained community at McMillan, but why would anyone want that? If you'd live there, you might as well live over by PG Plaza.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

@DC Citizen.
I think the think you are forgetting is that while most people in bloomingdale have cars, many dont use them for commuting. I have a vehicle, but ony use it rarely and instead bike for my commute and most errands. Many others use buses, walk, or bike to move around. Also, its pretty disingenous to compare it to PG plaza. Bloomingdale is still only a very short distance to u street, columbia heights, downtown or H street. Its not nearly so isolated as you believe.

by eric on May 8, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

"how many people in bloomingdale are car free now?"

"Not many."

see my post above, it appears to be over 25% of households already.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

"I think the think you are forgetting is that while most people in bloomingdale have cars, many dont use them for commuting. I have a vehicle, but ony use it rarely and instead bike for my commute and most errands. Many others use buses, walk, or bike to move around. Also, its pretty disingenous to compare it to PG plaza. Bloomingdale is still only a very short distance to u street, columbia heights, downtown or H street. Its not nearly so isolated as you believe."

I don't drive to work either. But it's one thing to not drive to work, and another thing to go to Best Buy, the movies, shopping, the grocery store, Florida Avenue Grill, Chi Cha Lounge, etc. all without the use of a car. I know very few people who live in the neighborhood and do all of that without a car. If I did a survey of the 100 and 200 blocks of U Street this evening, I think I'd be hard-pressed to find a half dozen people who live a "car free" lifestyle.

The only neighborhoods I'd probably want to live in without a car would be Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan. And even then, Metro is not THAT good where the the benefits of not having a car substantially outweigh the benefits of having one. The bottom line is that most people in most DC neighborhoods are going to bring cars because (1) they don't plan on spending all of their time in one neighborhood and (2) it's not that easy to get from one neighborhood to another via Metro.

And the statement about PG Plaza was hyperbolic. The point was that the McMillan development will act very much as a sort of self-contained development. If you look at Chancellor's Row (EYA's development in Brookland), it also has a self-contained, suburban subdivision feel to it, albeit more aesthetically similar to your typical DC rowhouse neighborhood. I think McMillan would be okay if you lived there or live in the immediate vicinity and don't mind walking to the "action." But it's not going to make the neighborhood anything like Logan or Dupont like some people assume.

Do you think that the retail at NoMa is really that accessible to people living in Eckington (or even Trinidad for that matter)? Because that's essentially what the development will be like. Furthermore, do you think such development is truly worth the cost?

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

"I know very few people who live in the neighborhood and do all of that without a car. "

the census indicates about 25% of neighborhood households have no vehicles.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 3:21 pm • linkreport

"see my post above, it appears to be over 25% of households already."

First of all, you don't even live in the neighborhood. By your own admission, you live in Fairfax County, so how much do you really know about the neighborhood?

Second, you make this wistful assumption that since "25% of households don't have cars, that means that a fair number of people walk, bike, skateboard, rollerblade to run daily errands." Bloomingdale is not all newly arrived, 25-30 year old gentrifiers from Minneapolis. There are still a lot of seniors here who CANNOT drive. There is also a sizeable number of people who live below the poverty line in Bloomingdale. So you can't willy nilly assume that people who don't have cars do so by choice.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

"First of all, you don't even live in the neighborhood. By your own admission, you live in Fairfax County, so how much do you really know about the neighborhood?"

if i were arguing from personal experience of the neighborhood, that would make sense. However, I am not. I am pointing out a statistic.

"There are still a lot of seniors here who CANNOT drive. There is also a sizeable number of people who live below the poverty line in Bloomingdale. So you can't willy nilly assume that people who don't have cars do so by choice."

I would have to look deeper into the census data to look at vehicle ownership by income or age. Still, I wonder, if seniors who presumably do not bike much, and do not walk far or fast, manage without vehicles in the neighborhood, is it really that difficult for 25-30 somethings?

I'm not indicating there won't be a net increase in traffic in this neighborhood due to the new development. But all this "this ain't U Street" stuff sounds somewhat overwrought, based on my explorations of the area (I am an empty nester in the market for walkable urbanism). I could see living there without a vehicle, or living there with a vehicle and seldom using it. especially if the new development brings a supermarket and other retail with it. Certainly development including retail on McMillan will make Bloomingdale MORE desirable to me, not less, despite some increase in auto traffic.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

First of all, you don't even live in the neighborhood. By your own admission, you live in Fairfax County, so how much do you really know about the neighborhood?

It would appear he knows at least as much as the US Census Bureau knows.

by Alex B. on May 8, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

"the census indicates about 25% of neighborhood households have no vehicles."

And what is the poverty rate in the neighborhood? I would not be surprised if there is considerable overlap between the two groups.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

I cant find data on vehicle availability by age or income.

I do find it by number of workers per household.

Over half of the households with no vehicle have one worker. So its clearly not all retirees.

by AWalkerIntheCity on May 8, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

"I would have to look deeper into the census data to look at vehicle ownership by income or age. Still, I wonder, if seniors who presumably do not bike much, and do not walk far or fast, manage without vehicles in the neighborhood, is it really that difficult for 25-30 somethings?"

That's not really the relevant inquiry. The relevant inquiry is whether these same people would own cars if they were young or more affluent. Yes, they "manage" to live without cars, but so do poor Mexican immigrants living in Los Angeles.

You can't compare the lifestyle of someone who may be blind, retired, unemployed, arthritic to someone who has a more active lifestyle.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

@ DC citizen

yes, I do think the development is worth the cost. Frankly, mcmillan resovoir right now might as well be a wasteland. It contributes nothing to the nighborhood. I do not agree that traffic will be a significant concern. The car capacity on north capitol is huge. The only time there may be a large increase in traffic is at non-peak times, and because the capacity is so large it shouldnt have a significant impact on travel times. Moreover, as a resident, I would like to be able to walk to a store that had more than just basics. The only 2 nice stores in bloomingdale are windows and Timor/Field to City, but even they dont have everything you need.

Would I like a bit more green space in the plan... sure.
Would I like a metro stop or trolley as part of the plan - yes. But I might as well wish that the New Mcmillan plant be opened up as a park and/or decked over. Its just not going to happen. This seems to be a reasonble plan with as much historic protection as practicable, while having enough development potential for the investors and amenities for the neighborhood.

by Eric on May 8, 2012 3:52 pm • linkreport

okay, i found it by age groupings. under 35 and 35 to 64 both have a higher proportion without cars then the over 65s. so its definitely not retirees.

There seem to be more over 35s without vehicles than under, so that may be poverty at work. But there are definitely under 35s with zero vehicles. in fact two thirds of the under 35s who are renters.

The big difference seems to be owners vs renters.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

"Over half of the households with no vehicle have one worker. So its clearly not all retirees."

When did I say that it was "all retirees?" I simply said that you can't go around ASSuming that the percentage of non-car owning households is any indication that people voluntarily choose a car-free lifestyle. However, there are many elderly in the neighborhood, and also many people living below the federal poverty line, so that should be something you account for prior to making any proclamations about the "car-free" nature of the neighborhood.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

You have indicated you don't know anyone who is carfree. 25% of households in the neighborhood are. Voluntarily or not, that casts some doubt on your implication that this area is like suburbia as far as auto dependence is concerned.

And that is currently (or actually in 2009). Without the retail McMillan will provide. Without improved bus service. Without a street car line.

And that is only counting carfree households, not households with one vehicle that get little use out of that vehicle.

Are the streets there congested at all ours, or mostly at rush hour? If the latter, we might want to look at households that own cars, but use other modes to commute (I'm pretty sure Census has data on that)

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 4:07 pm • linkreport

@ Eric - That's fine. There are few people who don't want the site to be developed. The debate is really about HOW it gets developed. There should also be some debate about WHO gets to develop it.

Personally, I don't see any reason to rush. The developers obviously do because they're trying to get paid. But if we're going to build something, and tear up a historic site (which is what's really generating the debate) in the process, then whatever goes on the site should truly be thoughtful and magnificent. So far we're willing to opt for the mundane simply because people want to be able to buy a cupcake within walking distance.

I would like to see a plan from the District that addresses all proposed development around McMillan (Washington Hospital Center, Old Soldier's Home, etc.). In my mind, you would think that more focus would be on the redevelopment of the hospital center since it's so sprawling and wasteful of land. Why would you raze a site that's already been given historic status before you'd raze a huge parking lot directly across the street? The answer to that question is of course political.

I don't see the opposition as pure NIMBYism. I think the preservation concerns are valid. You have to appreciate the irony in this, right? You have a site that's named after a man whose vision lead to the creation of various greenspaces in the District of Columbia, and yet the only site in the city named after him will be jammed packed with condos and office buildings.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

"You have indicated you don't know anyone who is carfree. 25% of households in the neighborhood are. Voluntarily or not, that casts some doubt on your implication that this area is like suburbia as far as auto dependence is concerned."

Why do you keep putting words in my mouth? That's not what I said. I said that if I conducted a survey of the 100 and 200 blocks of U Street, I'd be hard-pressed to find a half dozen people who live a "car-free" lifestyle. That's what I said.

And I never said that it was like "auto-dependent suburbia."

And the statistics don't cast doubt on anything I've said. First, 75 percent of people in the neighborhood STILL HAVE CARS. That's the overwhelming majority of people in the neighborhood. Second, you can't assume that people who don't have cars do so voluntarily, particularly in light of the fact that a number of elderly and poor people also reside in the neigborhood.

"And that is currently (or actually in 2009). Without the retail McMillan will provide. Without improved bus service. Without a street car line."

You're also assuming that development will decrease the car ownership rate in the neighborhood. Given that the development will invariably attract a more affluent group of residents to the area, it is possible that the car-ownership rate will increase.

At the end of the day, most people in Bloomingdale do not live a car-free lifestyle. And McMillan is not likely to change that.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

I also find it ironic that you call yourself "A Walker In the City" yet you live in Fairfax County.

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

I still dont think we should be focused on whether people own cars or not. The majority of traffic in bloomingdale is from people outside the area. More residents with cars in the northern end of bloomingdale isnt really going to have a signficant effect compared to the tens of thousands of commuters on north capitol and those going cross-town on irving, michigan or bryant. And there will always be a number of rental properties in the area rented to Howard, Catholic, or Trinity students who may not have cars.

Also, @ Dc citizen. I understand your concern about a more wholistic approach to looking at development in the area. I would be sympathetic but for the fact that this argument is used way too much by people who simply want to delay or stop development. In addition, unless its DC-owned property there isnt much the city can unless its through eminant domain. That isnt going to work well in this case cause there is too much federal land surrounding it even if you could get past people's howls of protest over eminant domain.

by Eric on May 8, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

@ Eric - What's wrong with delaying the process if it was never open to competitive bidding? The crux of the argument is that the city could find a developer who can create a design that does a better job of respecting the historic integrity of the site. We'll never know what other ideas exist because the District will not consider them.

But if you're that pressed for a Potbelly's and a Radio Shack, then oh well *Kanye shrug*

by D.C. Citizen on May 8, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

"also find it ironic that you call yourself "A Walker In the City" yet you live in Fairfax County. "

I work in DC, and often spend my leisure time there. I also walk in Alexandria, which is also a city, as are other places out of the region in which I walk.

Its also a reference to http://www.amazon.com/A-Walker-City-Alfred-Kazin/dp/0156941767

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 8, 2012 4:52 pm • linkreport

I have no dog here but if 25% of the people who live in any n'hood don't own cars, does that mean that you (as a resident of the area) MUST know someone w/in the 25%? We're not talking about a building..but an entire n'hood.

Of those I know who live in that area, all but one own cars..which doesn't mean much.

by HogWash on May 8, 2012 5:46 pm • linkreport

Wow...I have been just following this comments on this site and the one striking thing is the LEVEL of resentment that those who favor development of this McMillan have for those who oppose it. Honestly, what is the harm cause by this site in its current state. It is just an empty site. This MUST be about money, not about concern for the neighbors or neighborhood. I see now that money is fueling outright disingeneous arguments regarding traffic, stormwater, everything. So, my gloves are off too.

First, no resident in Bloomingdale who simply observes parking at night versus parking during the day sincerely believes that hundreds of their neighbors do not drive to work. The same will be case at a developed McMillan. To get in and out of the site, developers will probably have to add a minimum of five traffic lights. (One on First Street, Three on North Capitol St. and one on Michigan Avenue).

The plan boast 4,000 new jobs and 800 units. It would be fair to say that most would have at least two adults and if just three out of four drove and in half of the residents drove that would be ad additional 3,800 cars pouring to the streets during rush hour. This does not include all those, who developers hope to attract to the site to make it financial viable. Realistically, we are talking tens of thousands of cars daily! The developers of the site don't real give a good crap about the impact of that traffic on the neighborhood. They want to make money.

They do not care about the fact that his was largely a park and that a D.C. Historic Preservation site. They want to make money. D.C. Citizens noted in one of his responses, there are plenty of locations to build condos and retail in D.C. why do they insist on developing this location over the objections of neighbors and despite the fact that it could not be economically feasible absent millions of dollars needed to destory a historic integrity of the site! Still, it sits adjacent to a hospital with doctors, a three lane divided street, North Capitol St, and a two lane divided street Michigan Ave. They need the roads to get people there and they need to slow the traffic down to shop, etc. If the historic integrity of the site must be largely destoried, so be it. It standing in the way of their profit margin. They need the traffic, they want to the traffic, the traffic needs money, the neighborhood and neighbors can kiss their profit-grumping asses.

That is why that put "green roofs" on the tops of the 10 story office buildings and on the tops of the grocery store and then declare that they are preserving 55%
of the green space. They are disingenuously and deceptive, but they have not fooled Youngblood, or Salatti, or D.C. Citizen, or me. We get it.

One backer of the plan averred that the dissenters of this proposal are a bunch of tree hugging NIMBYs. Perhaps, what we are not is a bunch of disingenuous money hungry developers. We might be life long, ward 5 residents.

To their credit, the developer's plan calls for the perservation of a couple of cells out of the 25 catacombs cells that were considered a engineering marvel in its day. Likewise, they make an effort to preserve the regulators houses and sandd washing stations. However, I believe what the dissenters are saying is this is not ENOUGH. Must you be so greedy!! For starters, forget the office 10-story office buildings on the North End, and don't propose any buildings with those type of dimensions Maybe leave that part of the site as a park, catacomb cells and all that can be enjoyed by all city residents; bicycle parking at the site would be nice reduce the density of the residental housing at the south end. You might get it approved. However, if you keep trying to build a downtown office building in a residential area, people are going to object!

One commenter noted that their used to be a slave market at the National Archives, but it's gone now. Well, the Capital was built by slaves, do you think we should tear it down it too. In that same vein, if you want to build a Charles Smith style town center, go to the burbs, we don't want those in residental DC. Why don't you build it at Mount Vernon, there's no reason we should keep the planation there either.

V/R

Concerned Neighbor

by Concerned Neighbor on May 9, 2012 1:08 am • linkreport

Note: I'm not totally for this plan or totally against it--with that being said....

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Huge example is the traffic issue, which even VMP representatives have said can only be approached to handle best possible scenarios, which are most likely to take place decades to generations, into the future. I support forward thinking, but [deleted] our community will need to sacrifice in our lifetime for what we "hope" will benefit our grandchildren when cars might someday be pushed out of our new, improved city. The developers admit there is nothing they can do to alleviate the more likely &/or worst possible scenarios (example, a significant number of the 1000's of new people actually do use cars to come and go)--either you are willing to sacrifice the traffic mess in exchange for the development OR you don't sacrifice the traffic mess in exchange for the "hope" that a more reasonable plan is put forward.

[Deleted.] Malcolm states "Storm water runoff...would be completely captured on site by using state-of-the-art runoff management techniques." DDOE representatives point out that the plan actually traps run-off, minimally filters it, and releases the water into the public sewers & still can be overflowed in extreme conditions. "State of the art technique" today is not trap and release--it is retain & reuse on site. This is being done in DC developments. It means the water is collected, treated and then circulated back into the site for irrigation, HVAC systems, toilets, etc. NOW THIS WOULD BE STATE OF THE ART AND TRUELY IMPROVE THE FLOODING PROBLEMS BLOOMINGDALE ENCOUNTERS every single year.

The developer has managed "Silver" rating for LEAD Certification, which is carried out by a 3rd party to rate the development's sustainability--Understand that "Silver" is the absolute minimum allowed by the city. VMP could go for "gold" rating, but citizens (and some in DDOE) will push for "platinum" rating. Citezens do not understand how the LEAD certification works, so this is always glossed over with community sitting like deer in the headlights. Reporters should inform the community of such things--not just advocate for those who spoke most fancifully because they will benefit the most financially.

Then we come to architecture. Why would you just back a development of a Historic Landmark without seeing the architecture? Consider how we normally develop historic landmarks--well, actually, we don't usually do that. So, letís think about if you are asked to approve a development in Rock Creek Park or The National Zoo grounds--would you just sign off on a development that only shows you square blocks representing some sort of building? If there is a development of a landmark and one of the only green spaces in our city, then the people and responsible reporters should be demanding buildings that are worthy of taking up such ground.

Also realize that this plan seems somewhat unique in that the city & developer are both "The Developer", and there have been many incestuous relationships between the gov't and the developers, so many people are weary about how much the can depend on city departments, such as DDOT and DDOE, to implement the proper checks & balances. The developers are not fly-by-night businesses--they are respected. But realize they can do "good" work like you might see built on any slab of cement, or we can push for "world-class" buildings worthy of being on this landmark.

Many residents have worked very hard for 25 years with their community, city & developers. Many understandably burned out & just want the madness to end. We should appreciate their hard work and passion, even if we don't all agree on the same things. I hope the exhausted residents take a deep breath & continue contributing at steps ahead & I hope they appreciate newly active residents need to figure out the situation & need answers to questions that have been asked many times before. New people continue to step-up to help move the right thing forward.

This is the time for people to be fully informed before approving a plan. Once it is built, promise for anything different is gone forever.

by Tortois on May 9, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

Well, I do have a dog in this game. But you know my primary concern is not jacking up property values in the area, it is creating a nice space where our community can gather and we can enjoy life. Now this particular plan is nothing of that sort. Most of it is either residential or commercial office space. Only a fraction is open space (when you take out the roads and sidewalks ..etc) and alot of that is not going to be pleasant because either it will be along Michigan (Herbal Medicinal Gardens) or along the N. Capitol inner city "freeway"(Community Gardens). Even the amphitheatre they propose is right along N. Capitol. Now this is clearly designed by someone who does not live on N. Capitol (as i do) because the noise and pollution and everything is so bad that any green space there is going to be not pleasant to use until they completely revamp N. Capitol (which i don't think they are planning anytime soon). So, just that alone lets you know that these guys don't really care about the quality of the open space in this thing. This is really about return on investment...density, rents, property taxes, ..etc.

So McMillan is the last undeveloped large contiguous tract of land in the city. And we're going to turn it into a strip mall. What a shame. Instead, we need to have a joint business, foundation, city and federally funded development that would let us do something extraordinary on the site...something like Chicago's Millenium Park. But relying on developers to act in the best interest of the community..well that's just not what developers do...they make money for themselves and for the city.

by Todd on May 9, 2012 10:53 am • linkreport

No additional stoplights were put in at Henson Ridge, despite the new high population density and having to cross Alabama Avenue to get to the new Giant/IHOP/public library.

This is what we got instead: http://www.spotdevices.com/system-rrfb.html

One of my neighbors got thrown in the air by a car that ignored this system (might be the only one in use in DC), broke both legs, etc.

Again, fight up front for the public goods. Don't just expect them to happen because they're in the plan.

by advice from east of the river on May 9, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

There seems to be an idea that adding residences doesn't do anything for the community. But what is a community but a group of people? One great thing about living in the city is the people you meet. So even if all this does is cause more people to move to the area, I see that as adding something to the community.

Of course, it also opens up and improves green space; preserves some of the historic structures (instead of letting them crumble) and adds retail options. Those are generally positive things.

by David C on May 9, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

@Todd, there are several other "undeveloped large contiguous" tracts of land in DC. Off the top of my head: Reservation 13; The Pepco site; Walter Reed; Fort Totten.

by goldfish on May 9, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Todd, continuing @goldfish: Poplar Point...

by advice from east of the river on May 9, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

@AdvicefromEOTR, yayyy..another extremely rare GGW voice from EOTR.

But I most definately agree with you about that stop. It's a mess and ironically is the same stop with the missing signal post (if that's what it's called) that I've contacted the DPW, Dr. Gridlock and even GGW about - to no avail of course.

I'm not sure if you're suggesting such but I don't think a light should be there and the current stop "should" work just fine. Along with the fact that drivers MUST change their behaviors, the problem is that there is no enforcement..just nothing. There are officers in squad cars who sit w/in 100 feet of there most mornings and do absolutely nothing. I've even braved stepping out w/the lights flashing so that KIDS can cross the street w/o being run over by stupid drivers.

That stop alone has caused me (along w/Oboe's unrelenting) to become much more aware of these and other pedestrian crosswalks.

It's really insane that drivers can see lights flashing and think they should do nothing but continue business as usual.

by HogWash on May 9, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

"There seems to be an idea that adding residences doesn't do anything for the community. But what is a community but a group of people? One great thing about living in the city is the people you meet. So even if all this does is cause more people to move to the area, I see that as adding something to the community."

The objection is not to people coming to the neighborhood. The objection is to the amount of proposed demolition and development of the site.

by D.C. Citizen on May 9, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

I'd make an underpass for N Capitol St under Michigan, and keep grade separation until south of McMillian. In my opinion, I see little reason to develop the property. It would make for a nice park-- sort of like how the arboretum has that area with the Capitol pillars. I could tolerate some housing development along the perimeter, but would like to see the site kept the way it is.

And if I don't have my way, and the forces that are decide to develop, I'd consider a stipulation for the developer to pay for a a part of the lightrail to alleviate traffic concerns, if they are serious about that "transit hub". With non-union labor, imagine how inexpensive it would be to throw down tracks between Columbia Heights and Brookland.

by Adam on May 9, 2012 7:36 pm • linkreport

Well, continued grade separation of N. Capitol is a good idea...unfortunately i think it would be vastly expensive. Further, it might not be exactly what is called for. We might want to reduce traffic flows on N. Capitol and return it to more of a boulevard than a highway....return Truxton Circle to it's place... In my opinion DC needs to reduce the number of cars coming into the city center anyway (like London and Paris did). Sure, it's not ideal from a traffic standpoint, but it will push people to use public transport which will in turn support expansions and improvements in that area.

I stand corrected on the largest contiguous tract comment. But it is one of the last ones... and still very important in that regard.

by Todd on May 10, 2012 5:06 am • linkreport

Nice plan except what is up with facing townhouses on to N Capitol Street? That is not a good idea at all. Those houses will not be open window children in front places but rather as with all busy avenues just empty facades with locked doors and window coverings. This should be changed. Nearly no one wants a new townhouse facing a major artery. That end needs to be something else like low rise condo or it needs to have deeper front yards with wall and iron gate portions.

by Alex on May 10, 2012 7:20 am • linkreport

@Todd

You have a nice point but one problem; what public transit is there really along North Capitol. From Eastern Avenue until Louisiana Avenue there are only two buses that run on it more than a few blocks and the ones that do run on have horrible service so changing North Capitol into some limiting BLVD is highly stupid unless they fix the transit issues first.

@ Alex

Not so sure about that I know many people that do live on North Capitol as well as New York Ave and they do have windows open. If no on wants a house facing a major artery please explain; North Capitol, East Capitol, South Capitol Streets, Georgia, MLK, Alabama, Southern, Eastern, Western, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts Ave, Benning, Military Rd and many many more. If that was truly the case all those houses would have been torn down 20 or 30 years ago.

@ goldfish

How exactly are the Pepco site and Ft Totten undeveloped large contiguous tracts of land. Pepco is developed for use as a powerplant and or facility to house their equipment.
Ft Totten where exactly is there empty unowned land at around there ? The only land that comes to mind is FT Totten Park and if you are talking about that you can add every park in DC

by kk on May 10, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

@kk -- the Pepco Benning Road plant will be retired this year (or has been already?). The site is 77 acres with serious pollution problems; people are working on how to clean it up; it sits on what should be prime waterfront property. It has the best possible connections to the transportation network: the orange line and the new H St streetcar line are right there, as is Kennilworth Parkway. It will be available for redevelopment in a few years, and expect a dust-up over what ends up here.

Regarding Fort Totten: there is a large waste transfer facility covering many acres that people have had their eye on for quite awhile. I am sure better use can be made of the property, and I am sure the neighbors would like to have something else.

by goldfish on May 10, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

Well, i think that significant changes to the Streetcar plan will need to be made. The current plan really is too centralized on the 14th street/U street Corridors. It doesn't make sense to me why Streetcars wouldn't also be running up and down N. Capitol or why they wouldn't also run up Rhode Island (even if they emanate from 14th street.) Right now, the Streetcar system only seems to service limited portions of the city. N. Capitol needs more attention in this regard..certainly, with the advent of Noma and all the development in Eckington/Bloomingdale/Brookland. Why it doesn't get changes could be due to the fact that it's a major evacuation route from downtown. Don't get me wrong, i don't think that N.Capitol is going to change anytime soon-- Unfortunately for me as I live 5 houses off of it. But all the more reason to make the green space in this particular plan more user friendly by locating as much green space as possible off 1st street and not N. Capitol. Also this green space would be contiguous with that of the Reservoir if indeed they did ever open it back up for public use...which sooner or later they may do.

by Todd on May 11, 2012 6:57 am • linkreport

Yeah, and i agree that the lie about 55% green space....well that just tips their hand. just sit back in your chair relax your gaze and ask yourselves if that single park in the center of this plan with all the tiny courtyards equals 55% of the total space. Obviously they can't get to that without counting the "Green roofs" and the shaded sidewalks and the storm runnoff zones. Let's not kid ourselves, the usuable green space in this plan is more along the lines of 30% if even so much. And to say it's 55% is just a lie and it shows that they are indeed using disingenuous methods of presentation.

by issabre on May 11, 2012 7:04 am • linkreport

1. 55% of the area is green space. That it is non-contiguous or to serve another purpose is irrelevant to that definition

2. 0% of the site right now is "usable" green space. Even if it were opened as a park right now, what exactly would you use it for? What activities could you do in an open space that can't do in this developed site.

by David C on May 11, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

I can do alot less in that 10% of usuable space than if 100% of it was a park. I'd even settle for 80%. The thing isn't that we want it to stay like it is. It's that we want something better than this crappy plan.

by Todd on May 12, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

OK, so what would that something better be? Lay out your competing vision. Sell me on it.

by David C on May 12, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

@David C
I don't accepted your premise that the sight is an usable green space. In it's current state it is quite pretty. I love grazing at the site as I run pass it on my morning runs. The fact that you cannot appreciate the simple beauty of the site as it is currently, speaks volumes. You rate it as 0 in it's current state.

Does looking on a field of green grass and ivory covered towers offend your senses? Some of you development backers are like the 19th century lumberjacks who wanted to cut down the sequoia redwood. You simply can't appreciate the beauty of leaving it be.

It is my understanding that the city once sent people in to cut the ivory back off the cylinder towers, but they were forbade by historic preservatist who insisted that the type of ivory plant that was growing on the towers was part of the Olmstead park design.

Good luck in getting 10 story office buildings down the throats of neighbors who don't want them and historic preservationists who won't even let you cut the ivory of the cylinder towers.

In short, I don't even accept the notion that you plan is preferable to doing nothing. On the contrary, I believe that doing nothing is preferable to the plan being currently suggested.

by Concerned Neighbor on May 13, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

I don't accepted your premise that the sight is an usable[sic] green space. In it's current state it is quite pretty.

It is quite pretty. But that isn't what people usually mean by "usable" green space. It is kind of like Elizabeth Hasselbeck, very pretty but unusable.

Good luck in getting 10 story office buildings down the throats of neighbors who don't want them

Thank you. We'll need all the wishes of luck we can get.

by David C on May 13, 2012 10:20 pm • linkreport

Sunday, March 24, 2013 4:16:00 AM

We need to emulate Manhattan’s Central Park, one of the world's “Great Places”. Over 500 acres, declining in the 1970s, where a conservancy joined with the City of New York for a 26-year public-private partnership to restore, manage, and enhance the magnificent park. It is hard to accept the District fencing off McMillan, our Olmsted park, wasting this "Great Place" and over $17 million for over a quarter of a century.Then spending over $250,000 annually to mow a lawn, no one could ever sit on, picnic on, stroll on or in any way benefit from! How could they leave this precious , large tract of parkland to waste, instead of simply planting trees which by now would have already grown into a tall lush forest with all its critical benefits to the environment, the storm water retention, the air, and the health of the community.

In any city including the preferred upper NW section of DC, with proper planning, the millions of dollars would have supported a McMillan Park Conservancy, and funded the restoration of the park and all its activities for our city, years ago. The complete waste of McMillan Park demonstrates the neglect and contempt the DC government has for DC's eastern section, under-served for generations, with one fifth the park space as the NW section, always given preferences. The Vision McMillan Partners development which destroys most of the historic landmark continues this unacceptable imbalance. I encourage the HPRB to reject the city’s development plans.

The McMillan Site is protected under the Landmark and Historic District Act of 1978, DC Law 2-144, the entire site and its context "PROTECTED!" VMP itself commissioned the Historic Preservation Report by EHT Traceries, Inc. which states "this level of development, is inconsistent with historic preservation of the site," AND THAT IS SELF EVIDENT!

We need all of this park space, our land, even more we need an expanded park system, for critical community activities and recreation. We need the vision of Sen. McMillan to restore and complete "The Emerald Necklace" of green space, woods, and trails for the health of our central city. For a higher quality of life, like the upper income areas of DC have enjoyed, since Olmsted designed Rock Creek Park in 1890.

Our wasteful city govt., sucking every dollar it can out of the tax paying residents, and pleading about increasing its revenue from McMillan. But the richest government in the world can increase its tax revenue as the parkside property values rise and the concessions, performances, art classes and a huge City Market generate tax revenue and fees in McMillan Park.

Revenue and benefits to our city will also come from the new residents, who do not buy condos on our parkland, but who buy and rent in alternative locations and renovate derelict properties, thus returning them to the tax rolls. Medical offices can be built across the street at Washington Hospital Center, where they belong. While patients from all the hospitals, especially Children's National Medical Center, and their families, get some fresh air, take a nice walk, and help their recovery in a "Healing Garden" at McMillan. City residents and our visitors need parks, destinations, and "Great Places." The real McMillan (Senator from Michigan) had that vision over 100 years ago. Nothing about this miserable failure, by the DC govt.,recommends them to develop, pave over, and sell out our park. McMillan should never have been lopped off in the first place. When the federal government offered it to DC for free if they maintained it as green space. The best option is to now revert to federal control where National Park Service and McMillan Park Conservancy can restore and provide recreation along the Glen Echo Model.

by Daniel Wolkoff on Mar 25, 2013 4:02 am • linkreport

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