Saturday, January 24, 2009

Drinking Deep at the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant

There seems to be substance dribbling out of the McMillan water treatment plant these days, not all of it good. Last month, the District-selected development team tasked with transforming the 25-acre, deteriorating facility into more than 2 million square feet of new mixed-use development presented a fresh round of designs to the local community. New details disclosed at the December 23rd meeting include the possibility of a restaurant corridor and amphitheater at the corner of North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue – new conceptual renderings of the latter are available via the Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex blog.

McMillan was designated as a historic landmark in 1991 and, as such, will be subject to review by the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board as the $500 million project moves beyond the planning stages. The immediate result of this is that that the development team – which includes Vision McMillan, EYA, Jair Lynch Development and architects the Lessard Group – will retain as many of the 107-year-old site’s architectural flourishes as possible, including the distinctive concrete towers that abut the reservoir. Current plans call for those to be joined by 1,170 residential units (with a roughly 50/50 ratio of rental apartments to condos), 684,000 square feet of office space, 110,000 square feet of retail and 63-room boutique hotel rooms, with construction starting as early as next year.

So far so good. But DC residents got an unpleasant surprise in their mailboxes this week, courtesy of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DCWASA). According to the statement from DCWASA General Manager Jerry N. Johnson that was mailed to District tap water consumers, the quality of potable water emanating from the McMillan water treatment plant in Ward 5 was compromised for a 14-minute period on the evening of December 22nd. Per an addendum from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the lapse could have resulted in release of organisms that cause “nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches.” Surrounding areas affected via the Washington Aqueduct included the whole of the District of Columbia, Falls Church, Vienna and the Willston area water system in Arlington.

The prospect of such large scale development also seems to have caused some nausea in the community. Just last month, local resident Paul Kirk started up a “No Drilling at McMillan” blog that protests the perceived downsides of the redevelopment – including a presumed rise in the crime rate and traffic, in addition to infrastructural critiques such as a lack of “usable park space.” With four years to go until the ribbon cutting, there should still be enough time for everyone to get a word in edgewise.


Anonymous said...

I am giddy with excitement. Finally serious development is coming to the Brookland area. Of course I wish it was more innovative like something similar to Atlanta's "Underground", but I can live with this. EYA creates quality development so it is a welcome addition for me. In general traffic is bad because I-70S/I-95 in DC's interior was killed to preserve landscape, so we have to deal with the volume impact that comes as a consequence 30 years later. It is a 15 minute walk to CUA Metro and it is served by the 80 bus so I don't see how traffic there is much of an issue for DC residents. Onward development!

Anonymous said...

the issue for traffic is primarily for first street. it is a residential road that is already overwhelmed with commuter traffic and wash. hospital center traffic.

traffic is bad not because the interstate was killed, but because people try driving when more should take public transit. anon has their cause and effect mixed up.

what IS great news is that the street car will be serving michigan avenue. HUGE boon for development in this corridor, and should alleviate thoughts of traffic impact.
though a north capitol street car line or circulator bus would make a bigger difference.

the site however should maintain more park space. hopeful development further up north capitol
in installing a traffic circle at irving and the old soldiers home would ensure mcmillan as a successful park space, and ADD to the attractiveness of privately funded development nearby. the city needs to maintain city owned spaces for use of the entire city, not just for developers.

i'm generally pro development ( like the recent brookland project announcement) but taxpayers will lose out big time on this one.


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