City Paper is not for tourists
There has been plan after plan after plan for the redevelopment of the McMillan sand filtration plant east of First Street NW. Yesterday, project leaders got community members to begin yet again.
In the first of three public meetings, several dozen community members hunkered down in St. Martin’s Church on Saturday morning with principals from the architecture and landscaping firms that had been brought on to do the master planning of the site. Developers Jair Lynch, Aakash Thakkar of EYA, and Adam Weers of Trammell Crow hovered quietly, observing. The event’s august facilitator, University of Virginia architecture professor Maurice Cox, insisted that the point was to start afresh.
“This is the ground floor,” Cox said. “Nothing has been drawn. They’re waiting for your input before putting pens to paper.”
Considering the history of the development, for many of those invested in the process, that’s both a good and a bad thing to hear.
“There’s concern about communicating to residents that we’re starting over. Because it means that we’re starting over,” said the city’s project manager, Clint Jackson. “Many residents are a little exhausted by the site planning process.”
There will be some amount of learning from previous iterations of the plan. The last one proposed by Vision McMillan partners was scrapped in part because of community objections to the lack of public green space. And indeed, when the workshop attendees were invited to vote on the top three topics they most wanted to discuss, green space came out on top, well ahead of the topics of retail and architecture. EEK project lead Matt Bell reported back that he had heard no desire for large sports fields, but rather paths for walking and jogging. Predictably, there was also little enthusiasm for big-box stores; everybody wants smaller-scale local retail.
The area is far from a blank slate, however. Jair Lynch, EYA, and Trammell Crow are counting on a certain amount of multi-family apartment buildings, townhouses, and medical office space respectively. The fiscal impact statement is based on rough square footage numbers. And the District used tax revenue projections from those numbers to come up with the amount it was willing to kick in for predevelopment costs, just to get the project off the ground: A cool $60 million.
If you want to weigh in on this plan, you’re going to have to move fast. At yesterdays session, in a far cry from the scientific audience preference measurement techniques employed by AmericaSpeaks in the process of planning new development at Walter Reed, workshop participants scribbled priorities on big sheets of paper. Tomorrow—Monday the 18th—Matt Bell of master planner EEK will hold a “salon” to gather input from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at an undisclosed location (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-355-8998 to RSVP). Landscape architect Warren Byrd will hold another on the 25th.
The next meeting, where planners will present some initial thoughts, was scheduled to happen on the 30th—but that date will probably change, after it was pointed out that the combined forces of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Howard University homecoming would prevent most from attending. Stay tuned.
UPDATE, Monday, 6:20 a.m. – Apparently the October 30th meeting is still on. 9:00 – noon, St. Martin’s Church, North Capitol and T. Also, tonight’s salon with Matt Bell will be held at the Big Bear Cafe.