Sunday, April 22, 2012

McMillan Park Reservoir development planning

What does the community want for this wide open expanse of grass and historic public structures? What should the DC Statehood Green Party want to do with regard to supporting the community and
proposing ideas for best use?

This Saturday [April 21, 2012], a tour of the facility was made available to see the late 1800s sand filtration system which which was used to save our residents from typhoid and other water borne ills. In 1986, when a more modern filtration system was installed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered the site to the DC government. Our city paid $9.3 million and in 1991 the DC Historic Preservation Review Board awarded the site historic status. This provided permanent recognition of the combined park and water filtration facilities historic value.

Then politics reared its frequently ugly head. In 1990 the Ward 5 Council member urged rather dense development of the site to gain a return on the city's $9.3 million investment. It was wrongfully presented that the community backed the idea, resulting in spirited protests by the community. [I wonder what campaign money or construction deals were proposed behind the scenes on that one? Anyone know anything about that? Please comment or leave contact information.] Recently a no-bid contract consultancy deal was given to McMillan Vision Partners and EYA for site development proposals. No-bid??

At least 60 people have already registered to testify at the Nov. 12, 2014 hearing at the Wilson Building starting at 10 am.  Future Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Ward Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie Chair the two Committees sponsoring this hearing.  An excellent first opportunity to see our new Mayor in action and judge our future.  Tell your friends and other activists to come, or tune in on cable TV or web TV.  [Ultimately 90 people registered to testify.  I am told that the 15 copies each of testimony we submitted for distribution to the Council members were thrown out and never given to them.]

Community volunteers at yesterday's event expressed deep concern that things were being done without holding hearings or notifying the community. "Transparency" was the watchword for the day. We were invited to view a map showing "no development", "all development", and various percentages of each. A questionnaire was being filled out by visitors. Questions were asked about residency in Ward 5 and best means to notify interested individuals--email, website, community list serve, leaflets at door, community bulletin board, phone, other. People were asked if they knew that "a NEW plan has been proposed in 2011/2012 to develop...", and whether they cared about what kind of development happens.

Twenty-six acres of open space offers many, and many kinds of, development opportunities. Visitors were asked to rate the following as 1, 2, or 3, from most to least important (desirable): cafes/restaurants, community/recreation center, grocery store, housing (senior or varied income), offices, preservation of underground caverns, public park space with playing fields, retail. Finally they were asked what they DO and DO NOT want there, and how knowledgeable they were about the history of the site, and the new 2011/2012 development plan for McMillan.

I want to go back again and take a good look at the site and surrounding area before stating my own ideas. However, it was pointed out that from 1910, until the fence was built in 1941 when WWII raised the fear of sabotage, it had been a popular public park. It was apparently the only racially integrated park area in DC then.  Unfortunately, we still have to think about sabotage. However, a quick glance suggests that the fence could be relocated immediately closer to the reservoir itself, leaving an open grassy area for public use THIS summer. Picnics on the grass overlooking the lake, a lovely thought.

Other guiding principles should include: Preserving at least part of the filtration stack and underground chamber complex for use as a historical museum celebrating the conquest of disease through applied science and engineering. Requiring that any housing built on this city land have a strong component of low and moderate income residences.  There also is extensive underground space for urban agriculture, education and training for our underserved young people.  Since this area already has very heavy traffic, especially at rush hour, any additional housing or buildings should be carefully evaluated for negative traffic impact.

This large "green" and/or "development" site demands close attention by all our politically active citizens and groups.


  1. First of all Mr. Aikin you son't know shit about this site! That side of the site was never open to the public. Get your facts straight or just shut your dumb ass!

  2. I did not say that the grassy area overlooking the reservoir was the one that had been a park before WWII, I merely pointed out that it would be nice if it were. Given how incredibly impolite your response was makes me wonder if you are on the side of the community at all, or if you are working for the developers. I have been at public meetings were crude cursing people came in to deliberately frighten the community from fighting for their hopes and needs. Busted!!