Tuesday, December 16, 2008

mcmillan meeting notes

(i want to apologize for not getting this post up sooner, but sometimes you have to spend time taking care of people who need help, and putting the blog off until later...)

here are some brief notes from the mcmillan meeting that happened saturday at trinity university.

donuts and coffee for everyone who came out at 10 a.m. to trinity's library. the meeting started about 25 minutes late.

i'm not a good judge of crowd sizes, but i'd wager that 50 people showed up for this meeting. much smaller turnout that the first meeting in april.

after introductions from councilman thomas and aakash thakkar, eya's vp of development, emily eig gave us a brief history of the site. she showed old photographs of the construction of the sand filtration cells and the fountain that used to be located northwest of the corner of first and channing streets, along with some of the original plans as layed out by frederick law olmstead, jr.

tony norman, a longtime bloomingdale resident, gave more history of the site, and discussed how families remember the site from more recent years. he admonished those present to make sure that we care for our history, because, as he put it, "if we (the district of columbia) don't respect our history, how will the rest of the country respect us?

finally, after the history, aakash thakkar took to the mic again to describe the development to those at the meeting. he was joined by bob youngetob of eya, jair lynch, and barrie daneker of anc 5c07 in fielding questions, as well as others whose names i did not write down. the powerpoint that was shown was pretty similar to the one i have. if you'd like a copy of what i have, please leave a note in the comments and i'll email it to you.

anyway, some of the big details are that there are estimated to be $50-$60 million in infrastructure costs in the site—both to make it available to build on, and to save some of the historical elements of the site. the plans include approximately 1.8-2.3 million square feet of residential to support the retail on site. the developers are operating under the assumption that the city will not provide financing in the form of bonds, so they will have to find the up-front money on their own.

i included the image above to show some of the ideas of retail for the site. the retail element will be the first phase built at the site, with office and residential following. a grocery store will anchor the corner at north capitol and michigan. the developers are currently in discussion with grocers for this corner, but they can't reveal whom at this early point in the process. the image on the screen, though, lists many grocers including harris teeter, trader joe's (please, please, let this be the one), elwood thompson's, whole foods, giant, my organic market, safeway, shoppers food warehouse, fresh market, and yes organic market. since the developers said the site will support a smaller grocery store (in the 35-40,000 square foot range), my guess would be a trader joe's would be perfect for this spot. yes, giant, and safeway would be cannibalizing stores they have nearby, bloomingdale just isn't a whole foods neighborhood (sorry, but true), and i don't know if the space is big enough for a shoppers.

anyway, to step back from the grocery speculation, the developers stated that there would be room for up to 20 smaller stores, including 7-8 neighborhood serving restaurants. we were told to think of the city vista project at 5th and k nw, as well as barracks row, as examples of the feel this project would have, retail-wise.

comments from those in attendance were varied, and i don't wish to recount them in-depth here. suffice it to say that residents of park place, the condominium community to the northeast of the project don't feel that they've been adequately represented in the process of designing this project. members of the brookland community who are opposed to any development anywhere made themselves heard, often to the detriment of bloomingdale neighbors who had the floor. some residents who would rather see the site remain green space made themselves heard, but i believe that they are fighting an uphill battle here.

the next community meeting regarding the project will be held on saturday, january 24th, so mark it down on your calendars now!

i'd be interested to hear from others who were at the meeting, who might disagree with the way i've summarized things, and who feel there are things i glossed over that were important and should be discussed here. please continue the discussion in the comments, i hope we can get a good dialogue started here!


Anonymous said...

I was hoping for a larger anchor, but sounds promising either way. Not surprised that the opponents were out in full force.

Paul Kirk said...

This is not an ordinary piece of property. Any city with any sense of responsibility would want to plan its last 25 acre green space rather than allowing the benefitting developer to draw up the plan. Especially given the low-ball 50-60 mil in public funds that will be needed to build sewers, streets and other public infrastructure. This city is WAY behind on its current responsibilities regarding water and sewer. But, with the money that developers contribute to politicians like Fenty and Thomas, it is much more profitable for Democrat leaders to hand public property over to developers than it is spend money on cops, schools and just fixing all the things that are broken. As for whether DC is good at maintaining parks, it depends on the park. Up in the nice neighborhoods, the parks are maintained quite nicely. The main issue, and the issue given the least attention, is the traffic. First Street runs through the heart of Bloomingdale. The developer has seen the existing data showing that traffic is already at capacity. Their solution? Timed traffic lights down First Street. So, if you like North Capitol, you will love the developer's vision for First Street. Don't forget, they don't care. They don't live here. They just want to maximize square footage and parlay as much of this public space into their personal profit. Thole thing was set up under the Marion Barry Administration-era NCPC. They will continue making cash contributions to Fenty and Thomas, then take away this green space to make way for a Murray's, Popeye's, some cell phone stores and some cash-checking/pawn shops.

IMGoph said...

paul: you've already said the same comment once on another story. please don't repeat the same thing. spamming like that will lead to comment removal. i don't mind you expressing yourself, but there's no need to say the same thing more than once.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary. This looks promising. I would LOVE a Trader Joe's...I think single-handedly, I could keep that store in business!

Aside from the bonds (and I apologize if you've covered this already and I just missed it), what are the financing plans? I assume the current credit crunch will have some impact and/or delay the start of this project.

IMGoph said...

regarding the funding, i don't believe that they really gave us a lot of detail concerning how that would work.

my assumption is that, since construction wouldn't begin for a couple years (since they need to get permits, zoning, etc.), they assume that the market will get a little better by then and funding should be less difficult to get.

Anonymous said...

Uh, no. The condos that have been newly built downtown and in columbia heights are grotesque. Why would you want to ruin the city more than it already has, especially when just transient gentrifiers are living/shopping there?

Unknown said...

So where does this $50-60 million come from? Is that the city's contribution to the project? Because I can think how that money could be spent better.

On the other hand, I really hate what this site looks like now (a field behind barbed-wire fencing) so nearly anything is an improvement.

For the people (like Paul above) who say the developers are "tak[ing] away this green space" - does this really count as green space? I realize it is mostly grass which is literally green, but isn't a park, it is a fenced in vacant lot. (well, not vacant, but it might as well be for the good those brick silos are doing)

mocha mayhem said...

No, Nolan, the $50-60 does NOT come from the city. It is supported by the development of the site. T

Anonymous said...

I'm sort of amused and saddened that residents believe that Bloomingdale will attract upscale retail, including Trader Joe's. As a reality check, consult the 2000 Census data for our tracts (after all, this is the same socioeconomic data that retail chains use). You will find a demographic and economic profile that would make any retailer run for the hills as fast as possible. And then couple that with our disfunctional ANC...

We're going to end up with something a lot closer to Rhode Island Center than the Shops at Georgetown!

- JM

dano said...

JM, i would venture to say that things in the neighborhood have changed a little bit since 2000. as an example i was in high school in Michigan, where now i live in Bloomingdale and would make a TJ's my primary shopping spot if one opened up. the nearby Safeway and Giant leave a little bit to be desired especially in produce and specialty items TJ's is known for. im not about to apply for a mortgage based on 8 year old employment and credit, whats more important is the last year or two. i dont care where you come from, cheap good food in the neighborhood will bring people in.

i feel like im the champion of development in the comments here, i just cant help but counter what seem to be faulty arguments.

Paul Kirk said...

This site is public property. It belongs to taxpayers. Marion Barry's NCRC, a corrupt organization designed to turn public property into private profits, set up a process where the developer would be pre-chosen (as opposed to final designs being submitted in a competitive process). The developers, who won't have to worry about traffic because they don't live here, are motivated by one factor - profit. That is why there is only one cross street, which will increase traffic on Channing Street by a factor of five. That is why the "park space" is simply the land around the towers. That is why there are no trails for running, biking, or roller blading. The developer's profit will be base on square footage. They will go as vertical as possible, spoiling views from homes on North Capitol. First Street traffic will dramatically increase. The developer's plan is replace stop signs with traffic lights. So, if you like North Capitol Street you will love the transformation of Bloomingdale's once charming First Street. And, for what? Popeye's, Pager stores and more low-income housing in a neighborhood that already has more than its share. I'm not against low-income housing, I just think it should be spread out to other parts of the city. I hope more people will ask more questions and realize this public space should not be developed. It absorbs a lot of stormwater, provides a sanctuary to migratory birds and is a unique asset which the city should take charge of rather than turning over the development to a pre-selected private corporation motivated solely by profit. No drilling at McMillan.

IMGoph said...

paul: honestly, give it a rest. you keep saying the same thing. and i don't appreciate the sloganeering that you end your posts with. i leave the posts on my blog open for comment, and i welcome dissenting views, but anything you say from here on out will be summarily removed if you refuse to participate in a constructive way. nothing is going to be drilled here, got it, buck-o? consider this your final warning.

Paul Kirk said...

Actually, there has already been drilling and there will continue to be drilling. Drilling is essential to turning green space into concrete and asphalt. Well, at least this time you didn't infer that I thought poor people should be treated like animals. You have very interesting ideas about hosting an open forum.

IMGoph said...

paul: set up your own blog if you feel you're being constrained here. no one is stopping you from doing so.

Anonymous said...

The annoying thing, these city-owned properties sit vacant for 25+ years and in that time, nothing is done with them. When the city tries to do something, sell them. Groups like Empower dc and Paul come out of the woodwork saying these must be help in the public trust. Where were you previously. I recently watched empower dc give a presentation at baca where they listed their 'preferred' usage which if they spent 2 seconds listening to the community, they would have realized the list they presented was 100% backward from what the community wanted. Done ranting, back to work

Anonymous said...

The economy is a disaster, and in the near-term; it is headed downward from here.

Relatively speaking, the DC area has a strong job market. But that isn't enough to stem the tide of economic problems for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people in the greater DC area.

Suburban goveernments are cutting funds to support the jobless, the homeless, and the mentally ill. They are headed our (DC's) way given our long history of social programs.

Regardless, just look at the crime stats for the area. They are horrifying. We just experienced a murder in broad daylight on 1st St., during a weekday afternoon.

Folks, Bloomingdale is a decade or more away from being the kind of place where you can walk to Trader Joe's at the McMillian site, without having to fear being caught in the crossfire of a drug killing or being mugged by a junkie looking to buy some drugs.

TEN YEARS. MINIMUM. (I've lived here much longer than many of you, and I'm generally an optimist about the 'hood.)

Anonymous said...

leave the paul person alone.

apparently he has mental... "issues".

let's embrace diversity and let the retard puke on your blog.

he won't benefit at all, and you'll go to heaven. the guy makes a serious case AGAINSt the crap he's spewing. kind of ironic.

but it's funny.

what a dork.

Paul Kirk said...

It is interesting that the developer and supporters of turning this green space into concrete and asphalt pick out the weakest arguments against developing McMillan, and have nothing to say about the strongest arguements, namely:

1)Transportation. In reports commissioned by the City, the Washington Hospital Center is the most dense commuter destination not served by transit rail. Another study done shows that WITHOUT additional development at the Armed Forces Retirement Home and McMillan, traffic in Bloomingdale is already severely stressed and will get worse. The developer's response to this concern is to have we taxpayers foot the bill for timed traffic lights up and down First Street, the heart of Bloomingdale. So, you can ridicule my concern about open space, stormwater runoff and migratory birds, but what do you have to say about traffic? Let me add that if the city had a role in designing this site, they certainly would never dream of adding only cross street between First and North Capitol. (There would be four if the standard city grid were followed.) Since the developer is a private corporation they are maximizing profits and could care less about the mess they will leave behind. So, if you like North Capitol Street, you will love the developer's vision for timed traffic lights for First Street. I am very interested in hearing from folks in Bloomingdale that like First Street the way it is, especially those with pets and children.

2)More low-income housing in a neighborhood teetering on the edge. This neighborhood has enough taxpayer-subsidized housing. It's about time other neighborhoods, like Goergetown and upper Northwest shoulder some of the burden of supplying housing for people that don't have jobs. There are already enough people walking around all day and night with nothing better to do than loiter, rob, steal, deal drugs, assault and murder us. It is not my opinion that low-income housing is a magnet for these people, it is a well-documented fact of life in the city. In fact, we live in a microcosm here in Bloomingdale with violent crimes more likely nearer to Florida Avenue and less crime to the North. Bloomingdale has a chance to become a safer neighborhood thanks to the efforts of John Salatti and others. Adding hundreds of units of taxpayer-subsidized housing in Bloomingdale will create new opportunities and destinations for criminals that tend to hang around Florida Avenue.

3) Wasted opportunity. McMillan Reservoir is a stunning resource. The elevation is sufficient to create a vista of the entire City. Since the developer controls the planning, they are maximizing square footage and minimizing usable park space. If they had an inkling of imagination they would have started by designing a running/biking trail that would go around the property with a right-of-way around the reservoir. By building an elevated pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Michigan and First, you could connect Childrens/Washington Hospital Center, the reservoir and new park space and have a trails that would separate pedestrians from traffic. Instead they are double-counting open space by counting the space they need to preserve anyway within their mandate to preserve the towers. This is such a unique space and they are devoted to making it look like Gallery Place, which will maximize concrete and their profits.

Any city with any sense of pride would never allow a pre-selected private developer to transform 25 acres of green space into a development project designed simply to maximize the profit of said developer. I asked the developer about the idea of including a Metro station, or gaining access to the reservoir and looking at the bigger picture. Their response was that there was no time to include these efforts in the plan. After all, time is money!

Anonymous said...

"I am very interested in hearing from folks in Bloomingdale that like First Street the way it is, especially those with pets and children."

1st Street NW through Bloomingdale is appalling. The hospital center is a major employment hub... they are OUT OF PARKING THERE. The overflow lots for employees are on New Mexico Avenue; nowhere near the hospital center.

Patients at the hospital complex have a very difficult time driving to the complex, and parking there. After all, driving is essentially the only way to get there.

When McMillian is developed, the Hospital Center will be strangled by the congestion. It is on the cusp now.

Anonymous said...

A little 1970's pop music for the kids:

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live in cars

Here in my car
I can only receive
I can listen to you
It keeps me stable for days in cars

[Instrumental Interlude]

Here in my car
Where the image breaks down
Will you visit me please
If I open my door in cars

Here in my car
You know I've started to think
About leaving tonight
Although nothing seems right in cars

Gary Numan - "Cars"

Anonymous said...

Is there another meeting this Saturday? If so, where and what time?

Anonymous said...

I work in the hospital, and I don't share the enthusiasm for building on the sand filtration plant. Don't we have other urban blighted areas to be redeveloped, e.g. middle Georgia Avenue? I don't understand why most of the commenters want the sand filtration plant to be paved and populated with condos and fast food groceries.

Indeed, the hospitals have been growing, and I'm not surprised that they're running out of staff parking. The 4 hospitals serve a lot of DC Medicaid and Medicare recipients, and of course veterans, as well as patients with commercial insurance. Since other hospitals in SE and NE have closed or are restructuring, there are a lot of patients looking for primary care or specialists; or for services like physical therapy or optometry. There is a level 1 trauma center and a busy emergency room, which also receives a number of patients via helicopter from Maryland. I think the neighborhood has a strong employer in these 4 hospitals. I also think the hospitals provide some public services. I hope that people feel like the hospitals are a good neighbor. It might be useful to have a mid-sized hotel for family members coming to the hospitals, but this might be better tucked in on a local commercial corridor. I am not sure why so many Bloomingdale neighbors want to lose the lovely green space.

AbuAsher said...

I'd like to see the plan. how do i get a copy?

I'm new to the neighborhood, though my family's roots go back some way here.

This neighborhood needs a commons badly. The sand filtration plant could be that, something to draw brookland, the hospital workers and bloomingdale residents out into the streets and together.

DC (like my recent home San Francisco) has its share of ugly condos that don't do much to attract families. Usually the problem comes down to the scale: the buildings dwarf the roads or public plazas become so vast and barren people avoid them. There is an art to creating a public space that works. I don't think Jane Jacobs would have much positive to say about this design.

Is it possible to be for development but not this one as it exists? Is there common ground to be found with these developers but with more concessions to the people that will live with the outcome of these decisions?