Friday, September 03, 2010

alternative plan for the McMillan sand filtration site that fully preserves the site

More discussion the development of the McMillan Sand Filtration site in Bloomingdale.

This Email exchange was lifted from the Historic Washington list at Yahoogroups, moderated by Mary Rowse.

Re: McMillan Sand Filtration May be saved if Gray Wins
Posted by: "Mehdi Mansouri"
Thu Sep 2, 2010 10:01 am (PDT)

Our group of people against the current McMillan "City/EYA Plan" are not against development. We are against what I call "destructive development." We are in favor of responsible progress that would make the McMillan site functional-- to serve as many needs of our communities as possible--while preserving this magnificent, historical site.

We have an alternative plan that will fully preserve this site while converting it into a community center with all kinds of businesses, a shopping center, grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment, tourist attraction, park and green space, you name it. And all of that could take less than two years to complete.

At the same time, we have proof that the City/EYA plan will be a disaster for people in every conceivable way, especially financially, and only profitable for developers. There is not even one advantage in demolishing McMillan and building what the City wants to put in there--a mini city with 1,200 residential units and huge square footage of retail and business space with almost no green space, all without doing ANY studies about short and long-term cost/benefits of the "development" itself and its side-effects. None.

Everything the City claims to be a positive factor about their McMillan plan is exactly the opposite. And it is expected to take about 10 years (or more) to complete.

The City has also been keeping all important documents and all contracts top secret from people. City officials never answer any of our questions about any important aspect of their plan, such as what commitments the City may have made to EYA?

Instead they have tried to prevent us from asking questions and insisting on answers. Their efforts include harassment, framing up, wrongfully labeling some of us and lying to others about us (in my case alone they did all of the above plus contacting my employer and sending detectives to my door, just because I ask questions and insist on answers).

Yes, we hear that EYA has done "successful projects." This is what the City keeps saying too. But we need to define the meaning of a "successful" project for us--the people. At a minimum, a project that is considered successful for people in one part of the town may be disastrous for people in another part. That is exactly what is happening here. Just because EYA builds buildings that look good, doesn't make those buildings "successful" for people if they are built in the wrong location, or the wrong process is used to develop their plans, their construction, etc.

I agree that quality of life is something that many of us are concerned about. Just a quick snapshot related to quality of life: There are over 30 (and closer to 40 I am told) other mega projects happening just in Ward 5. Some of these projects are just a block or two away from McMillan. The City never talks about the combined side effects of all of these projects on our communities- -the impact on an already bad traffic situation, how high utilities and taxes will go up as a result, the impact on air quality as pollution increases as more cars and people come to the neighborhood, and as green space and parks (McMillan Park being one of them) disappear. DC is already at the top or close to the top of the list of metropolitan cities with the worst air quality.

Our goal is to stop the current developer-oriented plan and start making a new plan using scientific and commonsense methods. This is also a great opportunity to get the DC Government to be more transparent.

I am compiling a description of everything that is wrong with the City/EYA plan for McMillan and will be posting it to a website that I am developing for McMillan and DC Government issues. I will post the URL to this group hopefully within a few days.

I hope we can continue this discussion and address and analyze issues for our mutual benefit.

Mehdi Mansouri
(202) 657- 6457

[] On Behalf Of Paul Sieczkowski
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 9:39 PM
Subject: Re: [HistoricWashington ] McMillan Sand Filtration May be saved if Gray Wins

Saved? The development may move slower if Gray wins but what does saved mean? Its a neglected site. How does prolonged neglect equate to saving it?

There are definitely citizens that feel development of the site is warranted and that the current plans on the table are reasonable. All the EYA projects I've seen in the city are successful. This includes projects in Capitol Hill, the U Street area (two blocks behind Ben's chili bowl) and townhomes being erected a few blocks from the Nationals stadium.

This idea of what's best for the people is not shared by everyone.

Paul Sieczkowski


bloomingdale resident. said...

i would love to see a park there.

Anonymous said...

"And all of that could take less than two years to complete." That's when I stopped taking the email seriously. Save your energy on this issue. Nothing will be built on this site anytime soon. When a prime site like City Center (old convention center site) isn't moving forward. You can rest assured no one will get moving on McMillan. This is all hot air.

Bloomie Res said...

"At the same time, we have proof that the City/EYA plan will be a disaster for people in every conceivable way, especially financially, and only profitable for developers."

Come on. What about the millions of dollars the City will get in tax revenue every year? Or the retail our neighborhood will gain? Or increased property values for our homeowners?

I'm all about coming to a compromise between the City/developer and our Community, but let's not make such outlandish comments to incite fear.

Bloomie Res said...

Mehdi, just one more note - NIMBY statements like this will get you nowhere at the end of the day. Come to the table with realistic ideas and compromise, not "the end of the world is coming" tactics... people will give you more credit in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see an outline of exactly what Mehdi is proposing....realistically. Not wishful thinking. It is nice to have that vacant land up there, but would be happy to have some additional food/shopping options close to home.

Eric said...

As soon as this person used the word "magnificent" to refer to McMillan in its current state, I was done reading.

Unknown said...

"We have an alternative plan that will fully preserve this site while converting it into a community center with all kinds of businesses, a shopping center, grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment, tourist attraction, park and green space, you name it."

Is there somewhere we can see that plan?

Randolph Rez said...


Can you tell me how your proposal for this --"...converting it into a community center with all kinds of businesses, a shopping center, grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment, tourist attraction, park and green space, you name it" -- differs from the evil City/EYA plan for a "mini city"? "You name it"?! So everybody can have everything they want at McMillan w/o disrupting its natural "magnificence" at all? I give you no credence whatsoever.

Jenifer said...

One of the key issues is the amount of traffic, parking problems etc. that any development of this site will cause for those of us living adjacent, unless it's just made into a park area, which is probably unlikely. I've actually come to like those brick towers standing in the field. It will be hard to get used to a "mini city" whatever that is.

Anonymous said...

Show us the plans!!! I want to see 2d blueprints, renderings, site plans etc. Show me the ideas.

TheCommiss said...

Thank you all for you may have seen by Mr. Mansouri's postings..It’s a bit off the beaten path. The plans they have are a pipe dream and completely unrealistic. They are not financially sound, there is no backing...But they want to stop progress again for something that has been in limbo for 30 years. As for the structures above ground they are going to be saved and for the park there is 8 acres of public space in the EYA plan. I ask you all to be active in getting your realistic views heard, because all we hear is from Mr. Mansouri and his outrageous pie in the sky plans. It's all a bunch of ****. Between the Our Mc Millan group, Mr. Mansouri and McMillan Park Committee I can decided who had lost more of their minds. I ask all the residents to be active at the public meetings that will be occurring in the next few months to push for a plan by EYA...actually VMP to get something that is balanced and works for most. The crazy tree hugging radicals are way out of line and seem to get all the attention while rational minds in this community are ignored. Come out and show these people that VMP was chosen fairly via a public request for proposal and won against three other companies. Finally this half baked plan is the brain child of some whack out professor at CUA that in reality is not feasible. If it were it would have been submitted during the RFP, don't let the few voices of opposition kill a reasonable plan for McMillan. Let's get something out of a waste land! It's an unused industrial site that MPC keeps trying to tell the public is a park. It was never a park; no one has ever walked on the site or enjoyed it in over 100 years. STOP THE MADNESS and let's get this moving before it fades away for another 30 years. Financing rates are low now and we need to take advantage of a good plan and goo rates to win housing, retail and jobs along with a good park and public space. Stay strong Ward 5!

Anonymous said...

Mehdi -

The "group of people against the current McMillan "City/EYA Plan" with an alternate plan that you mention -- is that the OurMcMillan group, the McMillan Park Committee, a combination of the two or some other group of people.

I am trying to figure out who the "we" is here.

Thanks -


Todd said...

Well, I looked at the EYA plan and I have to say that it leaves alot to be desired... way too much residential space... Also, the green space is just too awkwardly configured to be looks like a courtyard for all the condos instead of a park. I'm not against development, let's just not create another columbia heights is a total disaster. For anyone interested in a relevant and very interesting presentation on the disasters of modern urban development see this presentation at the TED conference by Howard Kunstler, author of "The Geography of Nowhere"
Hilarious, but so true:

Todd said...

Oh and one more thing...let's not create a CAR centered development please. There are metros and buses and we all have two legs and can walk place...soon there will be streetcars...let's not turn our city into a CAR centered place. That's the real tragedy of Columbia Heights...they have a square where you can't even sit because of the choking exhaust fumes that build up between the canyon of giant big box stores....

Unknown said...

TheCommiss --

Can you explain to everyone why this area has to be developed NOW? Any why it can never be a park just because it has never been a park?

Finally, why is this the best place for a high-density development? The Washington Hospital Center is already the largest employment center in the metro area without MetroRail service, how will all these workers and residents get around when this land is developed? I would be a lot more in favor of pushing this through if I (as a resident of Bloomingdale) were getting increased services (like public transit) with the increase of residents.

My understanding of the DC master plan is that higher density development should take place along existing transit corridors, like Rhode Island Ave. Just because there is a vacant piece of land, it doesn't mean it should automatically be the next mixed-use, condo development. We should build where it makes sense, not where it's easiest for developers to make a buck.

Resident, 100 Block of V Street

Todd said...

Well, The Commis... I do agree that responsible and exciting development can be done at McMillan...I for one don't care even about keeping all the towers...but if some do, well fine--It seems silly to me (and I'm in cultural preservation). But Commish, above all, give me a place worth caring about...not just some rush designed to create a tax base and generate revenue for developers, using our rare and valuable public land to maximize private gain. From what I can tell from EYA's proposal, it simply integrates in an ad hoc manner what the community wants... which is why is has only partial support (at best). Frankly, the current EYA plan doesn't give me much to care about. It is car centric...all the artists renderings have wide roads and cars in them. Cars are for the suburbs...we live in the city. I don't want their cars in my neighborhood.

Retail? Fine sounds great...but why can't they come up with something like this?
Why does it take a european to design a human centered city? Is it too expensive these days? If there was something like this in EYA's plan, people would get behind it....instead they over us Shirlington in the city...or Bethesda Row... or somethign like that where it's still basically a network of roads lined with mall shops. It's so freaking boring.

I think we can do better. Residential yes...make the places match the local architechture. Retail...yes. Make it people centric and charming and attractive. It's not hard to get something exciting, but the EYA plan is not it (yet)>

And given that McMillan is just two blocks from my home

TheCommiss said...

@ Nolan—The reason the city should continue with the development of the site is because it has been owned by the city for 30 years. It has been a drain on resources to maintain the site along with no tax revenue or public benefit. We are at historic lows in interest rates which makes the investment in the site very attractive for the taxpayers of DC. As for the transportation plan…stage 3 of the Street Car plan will connect metro from CUA to AU Tenlytown; thus creating a good connection for WHC and the universities and aid easing the traffic issues brought on by the development of McMillan. As for the park it has never been open to the public since it was built. It is an industrial site that was designed with grass on top of it to please the eye. With all the manholes and pump houses it would be too dangerous for the public to use as a park. As for creating a park on the site now, the current plan calls for 1/3 or 8 acres of park/public space which frankly is a great benefit for the residents of the District. It’s balanced. The site will require almost $60 million in investment to even been to utilize the space no matter what is it purpose.
@ Todd…Thanks for your support and openness, it residents like you that encourage me. A few comments, I like your ideas of trying to reduce the cars on the site. It’s a goal for the area and the city in general to get less people in their cars and to use more public transportation. As for the current EYA plan, we have been working with VMP (the partners which include EYA) on a plan that attempts to meet everyone’s needs and desires, which frankly is a tall order. As I tell everyone, please come to the public meetings and express your ideas. The plans you see for the site are all drafts and have been evolving since it was proposed 3 years ago. Hopefully with the right influence we can all shape what happens with McMillan. It’s my goal to see something that is attractive, people centric and accommodates the desires of the residents of the area in the service and amenities we all need in the area.

Todd said...

Commiss... i think that we can work together to get something that works for most people. But can you post a link to the EYA plan so that people can take a look at the latest iteration. There is no reason it should not be online and easily accessible...and EYA should make it available online if it is not.