Massive McMillan Reservoir Redevelopment Takes Tentative Step Forward

by Will Smith

Looking east across the McMillan Reservoir at row houses along 1st Street NW.
Photo courtesy IntangibleArts

There is new movement in the stalled plans to redevelop McMillan Reservoir into a massive mixed-use project with office space, apartments and townhomes, a nursing home, and a hotel. The Washington Business Journal reports that the District has allocated $1 million to produce traffic and preservation studies related to the project. The money represents only a small step forward, but any movement at all is news given how much of an impact the redevelopment could have on its surroundings.

McMillan Reservoir sits just behind Howard University at the northern end of Bloomingdale. For decades it was used as the city’s primary water filtration system until a new system rendered it obsolete. It was shut down in 1985 and has remained abandoned and unused since. The area is now a body of water surrounded by grass land and 20 silos where the sand used in the filtration system was stored. (See photos below.)

The whole complex is an enormous 25 acres, enough space to fit over 500 apartments and over 200 townhomes, a nursing home and 100 units of senior housing, a park, 100,000 square feet of retail, a boutique hotel, and an amphitheater. Those were the features of a draft plan put forth by developer EYA, according to the WBJ report.

If it comes to fruition, such development would change the face of the immediate area. In fact, the area is large enough that it could be considered its own new neighborhood.

The vision is not without its detractors, who argue the planned project is too large and dense and that the space would be better used as green space, with certain historical features preserved.

While it will likely be at least a couple years before redevelopment starts (if it ever does), this will be an important site to watch for current and future residents of Bloomingdale, LeDroit Park, and eastern Columbia Heights.

Photo courtesy IntangibleArts
Photo courtesy IntangibleArts

See other articles related to: mcmillan reservoir

This article originally published at


  1. Z said at 10:39 pm on Saturday July 3, 2010:

    If you ever get a chance to tour the site, take a flashlight and explore the fascinating structures under the silos.  I’m less concerned with what is developed above ground as long as what is beneath the ground is preserved in some way.

  1. dcbuppie said at 10:05 am on Sunday July 4, 2010:

    :/ i hope it can be some sort of park, and some good amenities for shopping.

  1. roots said at 12:14 pm on Sunday July 4, 2010:

    I agree a park would be great, especially with howard across the street. Would add alot to the university and the surrounding area.

  1. Neil said at 1:55 pm on Tuesday July 6, 2010:

    To be precise, the McMillan Reservoir is still in use and the city’s main water reservoir. The proposed development is to take place at the McMillan Sand Filtration site, which is in fact obsolete and no longer in use. It is across First Street from the Reservoir, which is not part of the development plans.

  1. Will Smith said at 2:01 pm on Tuesday July 6, 2010:


    Thank you for that clarification.

    Will Smith

  1. PleasantPlainer said at 8:16 am on Wednesday July 7, 2010:

    Yes - that “body of water” is indeed a functioning reservoir, but those of us living here in Pleasant Plains (never heard of Eastern Columbia Heights) would love to see it somehow opened up for a walking trail or some such amenity. I support the initiative to develop the former filtration plant site in some way, but traffic is a big issue already here. With no major east-west roads in this part of DC (look at a map - nothing), and with the medical center and general commuting,  ambulances and services/deliveries, the one-way east/west roads are already packed during rush hour. And worse, there is rampant speeding and trash tossing all the time. They will have to do some serious traffic analysis - or at least I hope they do! Meantime, why not enforce current laws!

  1. michael branagan said at 4:49 pm on Wednesday February 23, 2011:

    I’m taking an advanced photo class at Montgomery College (Spring 2011).  I proposed the Reservoir as a potential architectural/landscape assignment and my teacher was enthusiastic.  He felt MC may be able to write a letter of support.  Naturally we’d have to sign some sort of liability waiver.  We’d probably need a 1 week access window (in case of bad weather) but only would need to shoot 1 day.  Attendance would be maybe 1-15 people, depending on people’s schedules.  Can anyone provide a contact point?

  1. Claudia Moss said at 1:51 pm on Wednesday November 16, 2011:

    Does anyone know if any of these plans have been confirmed? I just moved acros the street from here and would love to see some better shopping come to the area.

Join the discussion

* required fields

Andy & Sue Hill

McEnearney Associates




Friendship Heights

Chevy Chase


DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We’ve collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit or start browsing below!