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Construction consortium signs deal to move forward on $100 million McMillan Sand Filtration Site development

A consortium of three construction businesses has purchased The McMillan Sand Filtration Site from the District for $17.3 million, setting the stage for a development with 600 new homes, restaurants and a full-service grocery store.

As well, the city is building an eight-acre park, community center, and pool on the property.

Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), owned by EYA, Trammell Crow and Jair Lynch, have purchased the 25-acre plot at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue NW, Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a Sept. 29 statement.

Work has already started on the project’s public portion and the $100 million effort is expected to be complete in 2024, DCIst reports.

The McMillan Site’s history traces back more than a century, DCist reported, citing the site’s challenging history.

The DCist story continues:

“Originally it was part of the larger, 92-acre McMillan Reservoir and Filtration Plant, the city’s first large-scale water filtration system. This is back when typhoid, not COVID, was the infectious disease making headlines. The system used sand, which was stored in large silos on the perimeter of the property, and filtered water through the sand in large underground catacombs, making it drinkable for residents. It was decommissioned in 1986, and sold to the city the following year. (Residents could tour the space until 2012, when city barred visitors over safety concerns.)

“For more than three decades, the space has sat unused — and at the center of a complicated legal drama with pro-development folks on one side, pushing to make use of the vacant space (especially given the city’s lack of affordable housing), and vocal opponents on the other, who argue the city’s plans for the space have gone on without community input and ignore McMillan’s historic value.”

The city set out a competitive bidding process for the site in 2007, and VMP won the competition to create a master plan. This decision set in motion both litigation and protests. In 2015 the DC auditor reported the deal was in violation of the District’s bidding protocol.

mcmillan redevelopment
A rendering of the development prepared in 2016

“But instead of restarting the bidding process, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation that allowed the city to circumvent the bidding requirement entirely for the project,” DCist reports.

“VMP’s original development plans in 2014 look similar to those outlined in Bowser’s (Sept. 29) announcement — a mixed-use space with housing, retail, and dining — but the project was stymied by a series of court battles over the years. Two groups — Save McMillan and Friends of McMillan — filed numerous appeals in the D.C. Court of Appeals that stalled the project. At one point in 2016, literally the day after the city held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the city’s Zoning Commission hadn’t properly addressed the development’s impact on the neighborhood, causing an immediate setback.

“In the summer of 2021, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, hoping to expedite the project, introduced an amendment. The legislation called for the project to “proceed expeditiously and without further delay through all phases of demolition and construction of the foundation of the community center.”

“Though some councilmembers expressed concern that the council’s interference in court disputes gave them a bad look, it passed anyway and helped demolition move forward in October of 2021, even as a lawsuit challenging the city’s permit made its way through the court. (To give you a sense of the anti-McMillan-development fervor, after demolition began, a group of protesters broke into the site last fall and literally chained themselves to construction equipment.)

“One of opponent’s later legal challenges argued the demolition created a health hazard to the community, potentially releasing asbestos into the air, but now, one year later, legal issues have been resolved, allowing the sale to finalize.”

John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, says VMP can begin some initial work toward building out the infrastructure for construction, including adding utilities and roadways.

Once the privately developed portion of the McMillan site is complete, there will be 146 for-sale townhomes and 467 rental apartments. Twenty-two townhomes will be affordable at 50% to 80% median family income, and 112 of the apartment rentals will be affordable, in addition to an all-senior affordable housing building at 60% median family income. The project also includes a grocery store, retail space, and a one-million sq. ft. office space to be used for healthcare facilities.

“A lot of the argument previously was that we had to save McMillan Park, but really what we’ve done by this financial close is make sure that we can move forward with a $100 million investment in a public park and community space,” says Falcicchio. “It’s a long time coming, but it’ll definitely — when it delivers — be worth the wait.”

Mark Buckshon
Mark Buckshonhttps://washingtonconstructionnews.com
Mark Buckshon is the publisher and interim editor of Washington Construction News. He is also president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He combines a journalism and business background, and has published construction trade publications for more than 30 years, after an earlier career in journalism, which culminated when he lived through the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in 1978-80 as a sub-editor for the Bulawayo Chronicle and a correspondent for a Canadian news service.

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