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 https://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.

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 guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »