To judge solely by yard signs, public opinion is decidedly against the planned mixed-use development at the former McMillan Sand Filtration Site. “Save McMillan Park” signs are everywhere in the neighborhoods near the long-vacant 25-acre site along North Capitol Street, which is set to become a mix of townhouses, apartments, offices, and an 8-acre central park. The slogan may be misleading—there has never been a park on the fenced-off site, and the development plan would allow public access for the first time since the perimeter walkway was closed in the 1940s—but it’s popular. By contrast, the cheekier “Create McMillan Park” signs that have popped up as a counterweight to support the development are considerably sparser.
But when it comes down to it, neither viewpoint predominates. Instead, the overwhelming plurality of D.C. voters appear to respond to the McMillan controversy with a collective shrug.
According to the Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll, 46 percent of likely voters have no opinion on whether the McMillan project should be allowed to go forward. The rest are fairly evenly split: 26 percent support the development, while 28 percent are opposed.
For residents of areas near the site, however, there’s stronger opposition. Ward 5, where McMillan is located, posted the highest numbers in opposition to the project (49 percent, to 25 percent support), while likely voters in Ward 1, just across the street from the site, showed the lowest support (13 percent, to 36 percent opposed and 51 percent unsure). Support is strongest in the wards farthest away: 3, 7, and 8.
There’s a split by age, too: A majority of likely voters under 45 with an opinion on the matter like the project, and a majority of those over 45 don’t. Likewise, people who have lived in the city for more than 10 years are much more likely to oppose McMillan than those who arrived here less than a decade ago. At this point, though, public sentiment may no longer matter: In September, eight years after the city awarded development rights for the site, the project received preliminary zoning approval, meaning it may finally be close to reality.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery