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McMillan site may soon see some demolition required for redevelopment

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City documents specify “selective demolition of underground cell structures”

A set of sand silos in the middle of a green field.
McMilan Sand Filtration Site
Getty Images

Original post, October 31:

The 25-acre site of the planned McMillan development, a long-awaited infill project along North Capitol Street that’s been delayed for years due to litigation by community activists, could move forward with limited demolition work in the coming months. D.C. lawmakers are set to passively approve changes to the underlying design-build contract for the development in November. The changes would authorize Providence, Rhode Island-based construction firm Gilbane to advance “demolition design and selective demolition of underground cell structures across seven parcels” at the largely vacant site, according to official documents.

The contract amount would also increase to $30.5 million, up from $12.6 million currently. (D.C. Council review is required for the change because it’s valued at more than $1 million.) Earlier in 2019, the D.C. appeals court ruled in the District and development team’s favor in two cases, clearing the major legal obstacles in the $720 million megaproject’s path. Some lawsuits related to the development, which has been slated for more than a decade, are still active. The developer is a joint venture of EYA, Jair Lynch Real Estate, and Trammell Crow; neighbors of the property, acting through civic group Friends of McMillan Park or on their own, have brought litigation over historic preservation, zoning, and D.C. contracting rules.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), which is overseeing the project, says the proposed modification would “allow the District to continue its work at McMillan by allocating approved capital dollars into a contract.” (Officials included about $71 million in capital funding for the redevelopment in the city’s latest budget.) “Predevelopment activity at McMillan is ongoing in furtherance of the approved entitlements,” notes the spokeswoman. “If the courts provide additional direction regarding McMillan, we will respond accordingly.”

The site features old sand filtration silos above ground as well as subterranean chambers. (The latter have been used for secret parties at certain points.) The plans for the property contain a mix of uses, including residential, office, retail, hotel, and open space. “The goal is to create an architecturally distinct, vibrant, mixed-use development that provides housing, employment, retail, cultural, and recreational opportunities for District residents,” says the city’s six-year capital budget. “The project will include affordable and workforce housing, and 35 percent of the local contracting opportunities must go to Certified Business Enterprises.”

Update, November 7:

Another legal challenge may hold up demolition on the McMillan site. UrbanTurf reports that D.C. activist Chris Otten has submitted an appeal to the Board of Zoning Adjustment over the city’s issuance of a partial demolition permit and a permit for laying a foundation this past summer. The board has not scheduled a hearing on the appeal of the permits yet.