Friday, January 30, 2015

Ward 4 resident Andrea Rosen: "Carving up McMillan Park"

Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:33:34 -0500
Subject: [HistoricWashington] Carving up McMillan Park

On January 29, the Historic Preservation Review Board held hearings on two matters concerning historic landmark McMillan Park:  one, regarding its subdivision (HPA 15-133); and the other pertaining to a new, larger design for a residential mixed-use building (HPA 15-o90).  I submitted testimony regarding the subdivision, which I am posting here in revision.
As someone untrained in law and the doublespeak that is part and parcel of that profession, I continue to believe that the proposals put forth by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Vision McMillan Partners for the McMillan Park Reservoir historic district are illegal.  It boggles the mind that HPRB continues to consider and rule on the intensive redevelopment of McMillan Park, given its own finding in 2013 that the proposed demolition required by the redevelopment master plan is “inconsistent with the purposes of the Preservation Act, as it will result in the demolition of important character-defining features of the McMillan Park Reservoir landmark.”  To build a case that the demolition and development should go forward on the shifting sand of such a finding inexorably brings to mind the phrase “house of cards.”
Historic Preservation Office staffer Steve Callcott at least partially recognizes this inherent contradiction in his report on DMPED and VMP’s application to subdivide the McMillan Sand Filtration Site,, which he describes as “a single unified site that still maintains its original boundaries and site organization.”  Like the proposed demolition of the underground cells, the subdivision of Lot 801 “into multiple parcels for the purpose of redevelopment is not . . . compatible with the goal of retaining and enhancing the landmark.”   Looking for precedents in rulings by the Mayor’s Agent on subdividing historic sites that were “single unified site[s] that still maintain [their] original boundaries and site organization,” Mr. Callcott comes up with only one, Tregaron, the 20-acre early 20th-century estate in Cleveland Park that, like McMillan, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  But there, any similarity between plans for the two properties ends.  
The Mayor’s Agent approved the development of Tregaron, according to Mr. Callcott, because “the conceptual proposal was exemplary in terms of its architecture and land use planning.”  At Tregaron, the 20-acre landmark was divided into two large lots:  One lot, of six acres, is home to the several buildings of the Washington International School.  On the remaining 14 acres are three single-family residences built on established streets (two on Macomb Street; one on Klingle Road), clustered on a single acre hugging the property’s edge; and 13 acres never to be developed, where the historic parkland is being restored.  Thus 65 percent of the original 20 acres is preserved as contiguous green space; the remainder is subject to low-density development.  Now that’s a project of special merit consistent with the Preservation Act and the Comprehensive Plan!
At McMillan, about 6 contiguous acres out of 25 acres of open space (less than 24 percent) are retained, at the southern end of the site.  One does not need training in historic preservation or architecture to see at a glance by comparing VMP’s renderings with photographs of McMillan as it stands, largely unchanged except for the absence of trees (shorn by our city government), that the intensive development of the remainder of the McMillan Sand Filtration site obliterates the site’s defining characteristics above ground, and—as has already been established--below ground.  
“[T]he subdivision of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site is  incompatible with the character of the landmark ,” to again quote Mr. Callcott’s report, and furthermore, it is inconsistent with the purposes of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act, which are “to retain and enhance historic landmarks in the District of Columbia.”  To first demolish more than 80 percent of the subterranean structures that won the protections of the Preservation Act, and then to build on almost 80 percent of the open space that is a defining characteristic of the 25-acre greensward, cannot be “consistent”—or in Zoning Commission-ese, cannot be “not inconsistent”--with the Preservation Act.  To describe it as such would be Orwellian.  The Board should take a field trip to McMillan and kick a ball across an acre or so.  The great open spaces are pure exhilaration, and not to be replicated or even sensed at VMP’s 1960s-era planned community.
So I must take issue with Mr. Callcott’s recommendation that despite the incompatibility with its character of subdividing the landmark, the HPRB ought to reconfirm to the Mayor’s Agent that design choices mitigate this incompatibility.  Such a position strikes me as akin to admiring the clothes of the naked emperor.  It seems that only in the tripartite division of the site, consisting of, from south to north:  (1) lawn; (2) low-, medium-, and now, high-rise buildings; and (3) high-rise “medical” office buildings, can real-estate development boosters use jargon to paper over the fact that nothing will be left of the historic McMillan site.   (As someone trained in Art History, I know how verbiage can be convincing even when its empty.)  Our HPRB apparently considers the continued use of such terminology a real triumph in historic preservation.  But those who know the iconic place now will not recognize it after VMP is done with it.  People who have not had a chance to visit will have no clue what preceded VMP's suburban outcropping.
The HPRB should not act as an arm of DMPED, despite its misbegotten position in the hierarchy of that office.  I urge the Historic Preservation Review Board to remember its regulatory function as steward of the District of Columbia’s tangible history and to deny the subdivision of McMillan Sand Filtration Site.
Andrea Rosen


TheCommiss said...

Ms Rosen,

Let me give you some more history and information on this site since you live so far from the site in Ward 3 you might now be aware of some important facts about this site.

Did you know:
The city purchased this site $9.6 million and said they would develop the site, that was 30 years ago.
The Army Corp of Engineers offer to give it to the city for $1 if they saved it as a park and the city said no!
The historic designation was only an attempt by your “tree hugging” friends to stop the development of the site for the past 30 years.
These same tree huggers have done nothing to raise funds to make it a park for the last 20 years.
It was Olmstead “JR” and not Olmstead how was asked to landscape this eyesore of an industrial site and that’s when the playground was built.
This was NOT the first slow sand filtration in the US.
The site never really work right from day one in filtering water and chemical were need to purify the water anyway.
DC is the 2nd “greenest” city on the eastern seaboard something to be said about a very populated area.
DC needs affordable housing?
DC need Jobs?
DC will add revenue to the decreasing property tax base which will help to keep your taxes lower?
By adding housing units on this site it will help to keep housing prices affordable in DC?
DC is over 20,000 housing units short for the current population and demand.
The Site where the development is slated for was never a park!
The entire site is made of unreinforced concrete which is not stable!
The site has been closed to the public since WWII by the US Govt!
Did you know that the site was never open to the public as it was a working industrial site!

For all the above reasons Ms Rosen, this site should be developed to support the homeless, the jobless and the residents of DC who spent millions of dollars obtaining the land to one day see a development that would bring services to a much underserved area of DC. Unlike Ward 3 where you live which has many stores, restaurants, parks, and frankly RICH folks! So Ms. Rosen before you put on your Save McMillan T-Shirt, I suggest that someone as fortunate as you are stop looking up and saying we should have a park and such, you should be looking down and be thankful for what you have and be thankful that the DC Council, Mayor, and agencies are looking out for the needs of the residents of DC instead of the wants of the rich folks from Ward 3. If you didn't know this site is in Ward 5

Bloomingdale Resident said...


Daniel in brookland said...

"help keep house prices affordable in DC",,, Commish you are delusional. We can afford to have culture, green space, and be creative satisfying all our needs. What we don't need is the Cleptocracy, corrupt politicians, with no informed consent, and the Trammel Crow corporation they serve, stealing our land, and $100's of millions!
Wonder where the deficit comes from,,, we're giving Trammel Crow $150 million or more.
Commish, now that you are a resident of Rhode Island, might be time for you to fight for environmentally destructive development in New England. Maybe you could champion the corporate theft of parkland in Rhode Island, as Visionless McMillan Partners has the Mayor and the City Council and a list of submissive DC agencies working for their BONANZA! They hired Jamie Fontaine to " neutralize opposition" and "muzzle the media", and "create the appearance of community support for the development", so you are not needed. Goodbye Barry!
Akash from EYA said in his last testimony, while Mcduffie engineered the land transfer(theft)
" we appreciate and respect everyone who participated, supporters and opponents". But really Commish, you don't respect people who you hire a Baltimore PR firm to subvert, and say "they have an outside national agenda". You don't do unethical things at all, unless you don't RESPECT YOURSELF!
If you would like to find out about revenue from parks, which are development, PARKS are DEVELOPMENT, my dear friend, google revenue from Central Park in NY. The highest revenue comes from one(1) hot dog vendor, who has the prime spot at the entrance to The Central Park Zoo, $289,000 a year. The next 20 vendors pay New York City $100,000 each. So in the 30 years VMP will borrow $800 million,, 21 hot dog vendors would create $63 million in revenue,, in the park, not the "Monstrosity built on Michigan Ave". Please Commish, tell us how much revenue is created by 365 days a year of arts/education and performances at Glen Echo, Maryland. How much revenue does Wolf Trap make in outdoor concerts, symphony, festivals and "Swamp Jam" Zydeco concerts.
We will make a lot of money for our community, when we own McMillan (community ownership) and we produce millions of pounds of organic vegetables and tilappia,,in sustainable "indoor vertical agriculture", feeding our city, we just have to stop VMP from demolishing the site, preserve the underground vaults, the "greenest building" is the one already built! We can save the entire 25 acres above ground, and unite it with the rest of the entire 113 acre Historic District,, all we need is to get a brain, and you bud out.
Thanks Commish, here is to hoping you stop budding into our business. Foist yourself on the poor folks in Rhode Island please!
Theft by City Council, don't you think the DC government is corrupt and embarrassing enough?

AER said...

Mr. Danneker,
Your post is so full of errors and misrepresentations that it would be too time-consuming to type rebuttals to them all. I was born 62 years ago on Crittenden Street, NE, drinking water from the McMillan Slow Sand Filtration facility; perhaps that is why I have always been attached to the place. The city has a history of making dross out of gold and slavishly serving real estate developers. It's sad that you have thrown your lot in with those who seek only to pad their pockets with public treasure. Affordable housing could be built on the established street grid . . . if there was political will to do so; National Historic Landmarks are not meant to be developed. Certainly the people who are most in need of housing will not be able to afford to live in McMillan Town Center. McMillan Park doesn't belong to Ward 5 or Ward 1--and it shouldn't be privatized. It has been and still could be a fantastic city resource.
Andrea Rosen, Ward 4

TheCommiss said...

Ms Rosen
So the water you frank with treated with chemicals and the site is not a National Hostrical site! People will surely afford housing on the site also!

TheCommiss said...


You're so out there and disrespectful to both the public the dead and those that oppose your view that responding to your obscene notions of a fish farm, goats and gardens is tempting because this would surely make DC the joke of the world. The most expensive farmland in the world! Serouusly!
When 12 members of the council and the major along with dc agencies agree that the wants of a few tree hugging residents dwarf the needs of the majority of DC taxpayers I'm sure I'll be on the right side of this issue! Btw I paid my taxes in DC did you? After all the rude terror tactics and Harrassment residents have dealt with you and your sic group of tree huggers, I'll have my say each and every time! why because asses like you and your crew don't have the right to silence the majority who believe this sites development is a good thing for DC!