Retail, housing eyed for McMillan

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Developers for the historicMcMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site on North Capitol Street said yesterday they envision putting a mix of housing and retail on the 25-acre property.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced that Bethesda firm EYA would be the lead developer of the site, which has stood vacant since it was closed as a water treatment plant in 1986. The site is owned by the District.

A conceptual plan described by EYA executives would put a retail complex along Michigan Avenue Northwest, across the street from Children’s National Medical Center. Some office space is also possible.

On the opposite side of the site, near Channing Street Northwest, row houses are likely to blend in with the existing houses, the developers said. At least part of them would be reduced-cost housing set aside for low-income residents.

The middle area would include an open recreational space and provisions to preserve at least some of the 20 sand storage bins on the site for their historical value.

The McMillan Filtration Plant was the nation’s first water-filtration facility to use sand as a primary method for removing contaminants in what was considered a revolutionary technique. It provided District residents with drinking water from 1905 to 1986, but was shut down as a result of new water-filtering technologies.

The plans for redevelopment of the site are subject to approval from the D.C. planning office.

“We have an incredible asset in the McMillan site and it’s been fenced off for decades,” Mr. Fenty said. He said the developers would help “put this land back into productive use.”

Unlike many mixed-use projects EYA has developed, the McMillan site is complicated by the D.C. Council’s desire to preserve part of the filtration plant for its historic value.

EYA’s drawings for a conceptual plan show the plant’s water towers sitting in the middle of a boulevardlike open space with buildings on both sides of them.

“That’s one of the greatest challenges,” said Aakash Thakkar, EYA vice president, referring to the requirement to preserve the large historical structures while building modern housing and commercial space around them.

Joining EYA on the development team, called Vision McMillan, are the Alexander Cos., a development firm known for preserving historic sites; MacFarlane Partners, a real estate investment firm; developer Jair Lynch Cos.; mixed-use consultants StreetSense; Smoot Construction and commercial trash hauler Urban Services Systems.

D.C. law requires at least 35 percent of the redevelopment contracts be given to local small and disadvantaged businesses.

Mr. Fenty’s announcement yesterday ends more than 20 years of speculation about what would be done with the site but begins a long process for redevelopment.

“This development could go on for six to 10 years,” Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for economic development, said as he stood beside a sand storage bin at the site during the mayor’s announcement of the winning development team.

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