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It may be the most alienating issue among District residents, more emotional and robustly divisive for some than even housing, gentrification, and identity—perhaps because it manages to roll all of these into one big, messy controversy. Yes, we’re talking about the proposed 25-acre, mixed-use development at the site of the historic McMillan Sand Filtration Facility in Northwest D.C., whose competing forces make the rapport between Vince Gray and Muriel Bowser seem utterly flirtatious.
“The forces of ‘no’ pulled off their final coup on Dec. 8, when the D.C. Court of Appeals delayed the plan to transform the McMillan … site into a mix of housing, stores, and parkland, thanks to a suit filed by activists,” City Paper architecture and urban planning critic Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote briefly last week in an introduction to a piece about the state of building here. But even the most neutral and throwaway mention of the topic riled both allies and foes.
“Does the author really think that VMP’s McMillan Town Center would enhance DC’s architectural profile?” aerie commented on our website (the acronym refers to the project team Vision McMillan Partners). “As a totality, and building-by-building, McMillan Town Center is banal and pseudo-urban, not to mention destructive of the sense of place and counter to the District’s Preservation Law and the preservation covenant in the deed that transferred ownership of the site from the Federal government to the District.”
Then there was commenter Bloomie. “Here’s hoping that the exciting architecture plans for McMillan—that would provide a real park, open space, a grocery store, needed housing, new jobs, new retail, all while treating the historic site with the respect it deserves—are built in 2017. The real residents of Bloomingdale—not folks who don’t even live in the neighborhood that are holding the project hostage through their lawsuit—are all hoping for the existing plans (sic) quickly come to fruition with no change.”
To which Eric responded, “Please explain how the architecture plans for McMillan are exciting. The rowhouses? The office buildings and condos are exciting? What is exciting for the developers is how much money they will be making off this deal.”