Model of one of three options. Photo by the author.

Three concept ideas for the McMillan Sand Filtration site were presented Saturday. All designs attempt to meld commercial, retail, open space, and residential, while responding to community feedback. Still, some residents remain fundamentally skeptical after so many failed attempts at development.

At this third community meeting, hosted by development team “Vision McMillan,” plans began to take shape. The design team of Matt Bell of EEK and Warren Byrd of Nelson Byrd Woltz presented general designs of for the site and sought feedback.

Area residents are actively participating in the meetings, many remain skeptical. As these plans move from spoken ideas onto paper, some residents expressed concerns that they look too similar to previous designs presented, all of which ultimately were scrapped.

The design team presented three very basic plans, all of which include a mix of retail, office, open space, row houses and multi-family residential (condos, apartments and/or senior living). Reflecting community feedback, the taller office buildings are located to the northwest corner of the site, near First Street, NW and Michigan Avenue. The plans call for lower buildings and setbacks in the east to match the row houses across North Capitol Street in Stronghold.

Three possible configurations for the site. Photo by the author.

All plans include a grocery store, likely facing North Capitol with parking on the roof or below ground, as well as probably some protected angled or parallel parking, like on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. Developer Jair Lynch, however, offered some words of caution in his remarks on the grocery store. Comparing statistics of Bloomingdale and surrounding areas with Georgetown and Barracks Row, he made the case that the site is not yet at the point where locating a grocery store there would an obvious choice for a retailer based on include median income, dollars per mouth spent on groceries, and dollars spent dining out.

A representative of DC’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development assured one group that there would be space for community activities in the site as well, probably located within the retail areas.

The southern half of the site will have approximately 150 row houses and open space, the configuration of which was the focus of much of the discussion. Residents voted with stickers on sheets of paper to indicate what they’d like to see reflected in the final design.

Rendering of North Capitol and Michigan. Photo by the author.

Popular choices included an “outdoor amphitheater, rain gardens/stormwater management, reuse of silos/cells, [and] relocation of [the] McMillan fountain, reported @evoque. One group, apparently unsatisfied with the choices, created an additional choice, “MUCH more open space,” which received a good number of votes/stickers.

Talk of “daylighting” Tiber Creek, which runs dozens of feet below the southeast corner of the site, seems to have been deemed unworkable, although water features that recall the creek were discussed.

Area residents seemed split on how to configure the row houses and open space. Some prefer houses on the south portion of the site, in order to continue the Bloomingdale neighborhood, others would like to see the open space separate the new from the old, to delineate the difference between traditional Bloomingdale and the historic McMillan site.

The most iconic element of the McMillan site is the silos and the two brick “service courts” that surround them. All three designs seem to using the north court for a driveway, while keeping the silos. The south court seems to be destined to be more open, probably integrated with adjacent open space.

Concept view from within preserved cell. Photo by the author.

Again reflecting community feedback from prior meetings, of some of the underground historic cells that once housed sand that filtered DC’s water will be preserved and possibly integrated with open space or used for retail.

Each cell is about an acre, or about twice the square footage of the entire Spy Museum. The general talk seemed to be around preserving two or three of the approximately 25 cells on the site.

Residents seemed to appreciate this open, collaborative process, but at times displayed disdain that so much of the site (approximately two-thirds) would be used for new buildings. Other lingering criticisms of redevelopment include the increased traffic the development is sure to bring and storm water runoff issues, because Bloomingdale has a history of flooding downstream of the site. It also remains to be seen what effect, if any, the transfer of power to Mayor-elect Gray would have on site plans.

The next and final community meeting is set for Saturday, December 4th where presumably more detailed plans will emerge.