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Plan for a public amphitheater. (Vision McMillan partners)

Hidden in the mayor’s reprogramming of money from the Kenilworth Recreation Center to Hill East—which Councilmember Yvette Alexander held up to the last moment—was a little-noticed line item: Funding for traffic and historic preservation studies at the McMillan Sand filtration plant, which has been stalled for about half a year now. Today, Michael Neibauer reports that developer EYA has re-started a conversation with the city about finding the $50-60 million needed just for planning and infrastructure at the dormant site, with the actual building of a mixed-use campus costing untold millions more. Zoning and Historic Preservation reviews could begin as soon as the end of this year.

Councilmember Harry Thomas is squarely behind the developer’s plans, unveiled in late 2008. But there’s been significant grumbling in the community both over the process of awarding the site to EYA and Jair Lynch—the McMillan Park Committee sued in March for documents related to the disposition, which they say was secretive—as well as the high degree of density proposed for the site. In an interview with WPFW last month, local activist Tony Norman argued that it should be made into a tourist attraction recognizing the history of the area. Chatting with Housing Complex a couple months ago, local ANC 5C Commissioner John Salatti said there could at least be significantly more park space, or at least some kind of public amenity, like a library or recreation center.

“The interests of this community should not be sold out so that the developer can make every single stinking dollar out of it,” said Salatti (who has been campaigning early—yard signs, fundraisers and all—to keep his seat against a possible challenge by Harry Thomas right-hand-woman Vickie Leonard).

The process for determining what to do with McMillan seems even more contentious today, when compared to the at least formally open process underway to repurpose the Walter Reed site for public use—if the city does that one right, it’s a way around the McMillan-type acrimony that consumes so much of a community’s time and energy.