Officials insist there’s no demolition at McMillan
NEWS | August 27, 2019
Opponents of the long-stalled McMillan Sand Filtration Plant redevelopment are furiously insisting that demolition has started at the site — but District officials say that is not the case.
Activists fighting the project, one of the most delayed development efforts in D.C. history, spotted construction equipment at the McMillan property last week and began circulating emails and news releases claiming that it marked the beginning of efforts to tear down historic buildings on the 25-acre, city-owned property at Michigan Avenue and First Street NW.
Opponent Friends of McMillan Park said it asked for a court injunction aimed at blocking any demolition work on the site, arguing that any work should be delayed until its copious legal challenges are fully resolved. The D.C. Court of Appeals issued a key ruling in July that resolved one of the largest outstanding legal obstacles to the project, but opponents have appealed that decision.
Yet Chanda Washington, a spokeswoman for D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, is adamant that the activity on the site has nothing to do with any demolition work.
Instead, she says workers are merely starting to perform tests on how any future construction would impact McMillan’s historic resources. The property was once home to a water filtration plant, including large stone silos that have earned the site comparisons to Stonehenge.
Washington noted that the court previously ordered such testing, in order for the project’s developers — a partnership of Trammell Crow, EYA and Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners — to have a full understanding of how any work might “impact those elements we need to protect.”
“We’re just trying to take the necessary time to see what the impact will be,” Washington said. “If we’re at the point where we’re demolishing McMillan, that’d be a huge milestone.”
Before any of that demolition work can actually happen, the appeals court previously specified that the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will need to certify that the developers look capable to actually complete the project.
And there are still some legal loose ends to tie up. The court has not yet decided whether to grant petitions for rehearing filed by both Friends of McMillan Park and D.C. for Reasonable Development, an activist group that’s earned notoriety for its frequent challenges to large projects.
Legal holdups are nothing new for McMillan. The current development team first sketched out plans back in 2006 and even held a ceremonial groundbreaking 10 years later. But it’s been stymied repeatedly since by court challenges, fueling a push by local developers for the District to change up some of its land-use guidelines to make such legal actions less viable.
The D.C. Council is set to approve many of those proposed changes next month. Developers aren’t completely satisfied with them, but District officials believe that the alterations (in tandem with the court’s latest decision affirming the McMillan plans) signal a new era for planned-unit developments like the sand filtration effort.
Someday, the developers hope to build 2.1 million square feet on the property complete with apartments, townhomes, medical office space, a new Harris Teeter and a D.C.-built park.