Rendering of redesigned park space at the south end of McMillan. Image from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.

DC Water will temporarily use two former water filtration cells in the McMillan Sand Filtration Site to store excess rainwater and mitigate flooding in neighborhoods like Bloomingdale beginning in spring 2014. That decision forces Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) to redraw its plans to transform the site into a mixed-use neighborhood.

The previous plan called for new rowhouses on the south end of the site to extend the character of the existing neighborhoods. A park in the middle would have separated the townhouses from denser mixed-use towers on the north end.

Instead, VMP will now construct a larger park on the south end, build new rowhouses in the middle, make the buildings on the north end a bit taller, and construct more roads through the development.

VMP’s next step is to design the buildings themselves. They will hold a community meeting about preliminary building designs on Saturday, April 20, 10 am-noon at a location to be announced.

Under the Northeast Boundary Neighborhood Protection Project, developed by the Mayor’s Task Force on the Prevention of Flooding, DC Water will store excess rainwater runoff in the two cells as a temporary remedy for flooding. In the long run, DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project will build large underground sewers to store water by around 2022. When that is done, the two cells will be drained and will become available for use, potentially as unique public spaces.

The now larger park along Channing Street NW will feature an open grassy lawn. One of the filtration cells to store excess runoff will be underneath part of the park. The other cell lies at the site’s northeast corner, and the original development plans already called for retaining it.


Rendering of the newly-designed park space, seen from North Capitol Street at Channing Street NW. Image from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.


At the east end, next to the park’s main entrance on North Capitol Street, will be a small pond that echoes the now-underground Tiber Creek which once flowed across the site. The pond will also serve as a reservoir for the site’s stormwater runoff, allowing pollutants to settle out of it before it enters the combined sewer system.

Next to the pond will be an amphitheater and a community center with a green roof. The west end will feature a sculpture garden and plaza, with a spray jet fountain and smaller park spaces between the two, alongside the open grassy area. A tree-lined “Olmstead Walk” will surround the entire development, including the park.


Vision McMillan Partners’ new planned layout for the site.


The office and residential buildings with ground-floor retail on the north end will be fewer than under the

original plan (5 instead of 9), but taller. Instead of being in a stand-alone building, the “premium” grocery store will be on the ground floor of a 6-story apartment building.

The plan won’t set back the buildings along North Capitol Street as far as under the original plan. Much of the office space will remain devoted to medical offices.

There will be less public space in the non-park areas of the site. The North Service Court (one of the two rows of original sand towers and regulator houses that sit on the site today) will feature wider sidewalks, but there will also be more through roads. Douglas and Evarts Streets will extend across the site (Douglas using the South Service Court as its median), a new Middle Street NW will use the North Service Court as its median, and a new Half Street NW will run north-south from Michigan Avenue down to Douglas Street.

The new plan integrates affordable housing throughout the development, instead of having a particular apartment building dedicated to affordable senior housing.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DC’s NoMa neighborhood. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College (BA) and George Mason University (MA, Transportation Policy), he is a consultant and writer on transportation, travel, and sustainability topics and a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable mobility and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGWash are his own.