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EYA-representative Aakash Thakkar, center left in the blue shirt, opens the tour.

On Saturday morning, I joined roughly 100 other people for a tour of the McMillan Sand Filtration Plant.

Given the weekend morning time, I figured the crowd would be docile and relatively quiet. But true to what’s now becoming classic McMillan, there was an early disruption from a Bloomingdale local yelling about how the developers were controlling all the gatherings and stifling community discussion.

This outburst was followed by a response from someone saying that they just wanted to take a tour politics-free please ! And then thankfully, the crowd was divided into two groups, with one led by Thakkar and the other led by McMillan Park Committee member Tony Norman, who was involved in the site’s historic designation in 1991.

Then, off the packs went, leaving many stragglers behind to wander, peer inside the old silos, and take photos of their significant others posing amongst the romantically decrepit scenery.

This 25-acre site is located just south of the Washington Hospital Center and just west of North Capitol Street. It is fenced-off and rarely open, though another tour was offered earlier this week.

Bethesda-based EYA has been tasked with leading the development team that plans to turn this empty acreage into mixed income housing, office space, park land, restaurants, a grocery store, and other stores.

The McMillan sand filtration plant was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who has worked on designing grounds at the White House, the National Mall, and Rock Creek Park.   The park closed in the late 1980s, and since then, has gone through many iterations of development plans. The site was open to the public, but closed off during World War II when the land was fenced off to guard against a poisoning of the city’s water supply.

A vocal group of neighbors, called the McMillan Park Committee,  are pushing for increased park land at the site, which, at the last meeting, was limited to eight acres (though not eight contiguous acres).

Supposedly, another open community forum will be scheduled to discuss McMillan, though the date was not publicized on Saturday, and various people told me one has not been selected yet.

Looking across McMillan toward North Capitol Street.

Wild flowers near the northern silos

Inside the cells below ground, which are still loaded with sand.

Tony Norman of the McMillan Park Committee, who led one of two tours.