DC Court of Appeals Ruling Blocks McMillan Reservoir Redevelopment

by UrbanTurf Staff

DC Court of Appeals Ruling Blocks McMillan Reservoir Redevelopment: Figure 1
An updated rendering of the McMillan Reservoir redevelopment

On Wednesday, there was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the redevelopment of the McMillan Reservoir. And on Thursday, the DC Court of Appeals vacated the Zoning Commission’s approval of the project.

The redevelopment process for the city’s formerly-operational sand filtration site at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue NW has been fraught with a lot of emotion and opinions, not only from the surrounding neighborhood but from residents across the District. Today’s ruling was a victory for the group that does not want to see the land redeveloped.

“In the first order, the Zoning Commission approved Vision Mcmillan Partner’s application for a planned unit development (PUD) on the site,” the ruling stated. “In the other two orders, the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation approved permits allowing VMP to demolish certain structures on the site and to subdivide the site. Petitioner Friends of McMillan Park (FOMP) challenges these orders. Specifically, FOMP argues that the project is inconsistent with the District’s Comprehensive Plan and that the Commission failed to adequately explain its conclusions.”

FOMP also challenges both Mayor’s Agent orders, arguing that the Mayor’s Agent incorrectly determined that the project has ‘special merit’ incorrectly found that the project’s special merit outweighs the historic- preservation losses that the project would entail, and failed to examine reasonable alternatives to the project. We vacate the Commission’s order and both Mayor’s Agent orders and remand the cases for further proceedings.”

In addition to the Court finding that the redevelopment was inconsistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Judge Roy McLeese ruled that the development team did not appropriately study what the redevelopment’s impact would be on surrounding property values and the possible displacement of residents in the area.

“This is a great victory for our long efforts to try to get our city to observe its own rules and regulations as they pertain to this lovely historic park,” Friends of McMillan Park said in a statement.

Partners in the McMillan Reservoir development team include Jair Lynch, EYA, Trammell Crow, and architect Shalom Baranes and Perkins Eastman. As planned, the entire redevelopment will include 146 townhomes, 531 apartments, medical office buildings, and a variety of community-serving retail adjacent to the park, to include a grocery store.

UrbanTurf will continue to update this developing story as we get more information.

Note: An earlier version of this article included a rendering for McMillan that was out of date. We have updated the article.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_court_of_appeals_ruling_blocks_mcmillan_reservoir_redevelopment/11962


  1. DC no vote & taxed res said at 8:35 pm on Thursday December 8, 2016:
    A ridiculous decision, with its basis a total s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Strike a win for now for the whingers & whiners in the name of complaining and nimbyism in their march to stop progress. This development (or any development at all) is more likely to save and preserve any historic-preservation merits the leftovers of the McMillan Reservoir have. Otherwise, the leftovers will be left and likely no 'preservation' at all. Lastly - a joke: ". . . this lovely historic park". It's not a park and never was a park, Friends.
  1. Andrea Rosen said at 10:03 pm on Thursday December 8, 2016:
    First of all, Urban Turf, your illustration is out of date. Vision McMillan Partners reneged on the waterfall, one of the design elements that won HPRB approval, and of course HPRB approved its deletion, too. Who is going to go up against Trammell Crow? Second, there's tons of documentary evidence--ranging from real estate adverts for Bloomingdale to columns about WWI Girl Scout victory garden to aerial photos that show baseball diamonds--to prove that McMillan Park was designed and indeed functioned as a park until it was fenced during WWII for fears of enemy sabotage. In the latter era, the District government itself has been that enemy. I am grateful that in this era of Trump that the rule of law has prevailed and we have an opportunity to mount an international design competition for an amazing site. If you want to be a world capital, DC, you need visionary revitalization, not some banal 1960s-era "center" plopped down on a 25-acre historic site. Look at what Paris, New York, Chicago and countless other exciting cities are doing to adapt and reuse historic infrastructure.
  1. Bloomingdale said at 10:16 pm on Thursday December 8, 2016:
    I'm not familiar enough with the city charter to know if this is possible, but could the Council pass a special law explicitly authorizing the project - waiving whatever remaining hurdles are in place, including those in today's decision? If so, let's get organized and help give them the political cover they need to do so. This has been debated for years. Enough is enough - let's build the damn thing.
  1. Eponymous said at 4:19 pm on Friday December 9, 2016:
    NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY. That now makes three projects that have been at least temporarily delayed in Ward 5 due to the outsize influence of people who have moved into the city and are now determined to slam the door shut behind them. I understand the importance of community feedback on projects, but our process amplifies anti-development voices to the point where no one else can be heard. Enough.
  1. guy prudhomme said at 10:21 pm on Friday December 9, 2016:
    Residents of Ward 5 are notoriously anti-development of any kind. The City has given these people too much importance which gives them excessive influence over proposed developments. Ward 5 is heading towards being the least developed and least attractive ward in DC.

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