HPRB Has Lengthy List of Critiques For McMillan Redevelopment

  • July 12, 2013

by Shilpi Paul

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Courtesy of Vision McMillan

On Thursday, the Historic Preservation Review Board gave Vision McMillan Partners their remaining thoughts on the buildings proposed for the redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration site. Two weeks ago, the development team went before the board to present plans for the buildings, which fall under four categories: the recreation center, the townhouses, a mixed-use apartment and grocery complex, and the medical office buildings. Though they relayed comments at the June meeting, the board gave the majority of their thoughts to the group on Thursday.

Overall, the board was unimpressed with the designs and charged the developers with coming back with a revision that addressed their many comments. In addition to a lack of coherence among the various buildings, which were designed by different architects, some board members felt that the historical elements of the site were not enough of a focal point.

“Let [the buildings] be unified and similar, and let the silos stand apart,” said one board member. “The new construction should be subservient to the historic assets,” reiterated another.

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The mixed-use building.

Several members of the board noted that the community center was the strongest of the four buildings proposed, while the mixed-use building, a cross-shaped structure with repurposed metal materials, was the most controversial. A few board members hinted that it was over-designed while others thought that it was conceptually strong, but didn’t approve of the shape and orientation.

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Community Center

The townhouses generated little enthusiasm. The board offered a few ideas on how to improve the design, either by choosing materials more carefully, or perhaps creating groups of rowhouses with individual entries and simplifying the colors. “Instead of vertical row houses, what about grouped row houses with individual entry, and less color diversity,” Board chair Gretchen Pfaehler said.

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Medical Office buildings

The board voted to approve the master plan guidelines, but asked the applicants to come back with a revised design to address the litany of comments and criticism laid out at the meeting.

“I think this project points out how difficult it is to create a community from scratch,” noted Board member Graham Davidson.

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hprb_recommends_major_changes_to_mcmillan_redevelopment_plans/7308

14 Comments

  1. Luke said at 9:48 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    No offense, but I don’t think the HPRB was providing as sweeping changes as suggested by this blog.  Overall, the site concepts and density seem to pass the Board muster.  Based on my view of the video of yesterday’s comments, it seems as if they mostly want the historic elements to be captured and featured, to the extent they can - Olmstead Walk, silos and other out-buildings etc.

    Ultimately, they will likely approve something fairly similar to what has been presented, in my opinion.

    No one called for significantly reduced density, or no new development, for example.

  1. mona said at 9:53 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    Thank god they didn’t ask for any major changes and just adjustments here and there. Now this project can get moving and groups like FOM can stop trying to turn it into a vegetable garden.

  1. Found said at 9:54 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    @Luke,

    I have to disagree. I watched the video of the proceedings as well and it seems like there were so much criticism of the site, particularly related to the concept, that the developers are likely going to have to make a lot of changes.

    For example, when it came the buildings, it felt as though not one board member liked much of anything related to the designs presented.

  1. Moan-ah said at 10:52 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    @Mona

    I love your posts, every shrill and obsessive one of them!  [A portion of this comment was removed.] Please please keep posting and being the voice of poorly designed and misguided development!

    For everyone else, you can watch the HPRB review yourself at the following link and decide if the Board was highly critical or simply making a tweak here and there.

    http://tinyclip.tv/33248248

  1. Stronghold Resident said at 11:05 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    Sadly, the comment from 10:52 is representative of the anti-development folks: ad-hominem attacks and insults. It is clear to anyone who has been following this process that while the HPRB may not be completely satisfied with some of the design elements of the plan they approve of the overall proposal.

    I hardly think that anyone would suggest that the proponents of the plan are the “shrill” ones, not while the “friends” of a park that never existed are yelling curse words and spitting on people at public meetings…

  1. The Editors said at 11:10 am on Friday July 12, 2013:

    Readers,

    Be forewarned that if the comments for this article move away from a dialogue about aspects of the redevelopment project to a forum for proponents and opponents of this project to attack one another, the comment section will be closed.

    Thank you,

    The Editors

  1. Barrie Daneker said at 12:53 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    so your an expert in development?  Since i have consulted on this project with world renowned architects and preservationists, the plan is a good one that will please most of the stakeholders.  And your ideas/  cause all we hear about this is complaints with no solutions other than pipe dreams from College City which cannot be done!  so please add something that is concrete and hopefully one that is re-enforced unlike the concrete at McMillan that is falling apart and dangerous! 
    @Stronghold resident—You are right on target and thank you for speaking up for making this development compatible with both needs and wants of DC residents and not just the wants of the few new gentrifiers in Bloomingdale who have engaged people from around the country to convince DC residents that the plan is awful.  DC residents know what they need!

  1. Vicente Fox said at 1:12 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    World renowned architects?  The first picture looks like the Mosaic District in Merrifield, VA; the third looks like a sunken Kennedy Center; and the last one looks like City Center DC.  I’d trade “renowned” for “original” any day.

  1. Stronghold Resident said at 1:36 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    Vicente, I agree with you, especially as regards the mixed-use building. I think that’s what the HPRB is saying: the overall site plan looks pretty good but the finishes must be improved. Personally, I think that the Atlantic Plumbing Building design is much better:

    http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/tuesdays_must_reads625/7240

    If we can have some improved design elements, which everyone agrees would be good, then we can finally move forward with developing the site into a useful amenity for nearby residents.

  1. mona said at 2:53 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    I am just glad this is going to go forward no matter what anyone who is trying to stop it says. The city needs this and wants this so it is going to happen. YEAH!!!

  1. adam said at 3:03 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    Why in the world is there a city board made up of political hacks making comments/decisions about completely subjective aesthetic aspects of a private development project?  No wonder it’s so expensive to build and buy something in this town.  The best thing the DC Council could do for affordable housing is to get rid of these senseless reviews and approvals that have nothing to do with health or safety.

  1. Alf said at 4:31 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    I’m mostly amazed at how bureaucratic the feedback process seems. I am not involved in any way, so I am only commenting based on the articles I’ve read. I certainly hope there is a more efficient and collaborative process going on that is just not apparent.

    So far, these meetings seem like overly formalized means of dumping out a large amount of relatively incoherent feedback. This process has been going on for so long!

    I recommend smaller offline meetings to come to consensus in quick, iterative steps.

  1. Bloomingdale Resident said at 4:45 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    This topic has been getting a good amount of attention on the East Meets Wests Facebook Page - worth checking out for neighborhood news.

    https://www.facebook.com/eastmeetswestdc

  1. Luke said at 5:33 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:

    With all due respect, the HPRB approved the site plan and made comments and voted on the building guidelines.  The architects will need to make some adjustments to the building designs, and the site plan will need to be slightly modified to include the full Olmstead walk, or as much as the developer and DDOT can negotiate.

    At least, that was my sense of the proceedings.

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