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Another glitch in development plans for site near Howard University

The decommissioned McMillan sand filtration plant in northeast Washington D.C., Saturday, May 26, 2012
McMillan reservoir site (Examiner file photo)

A Northwest D.C. location already being considered as a spot for a flooding mitigation site now has a conservation group joining residents of that neighborhood in opposing development plans for the site that they say should include more park space.

The development proposed for the historic McMillan Sand Filtration Site near Howard University received a blow last week when DC Water officials announced they are looking at using it as a temporary water storage facility during flash rainstorms. McMillan sits north of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park, two areas where many homeowners suffered thousands of dollars in damages after the antiquated sewer serving those neighborhood caused backups four times this summer.

Now, the D.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club has fired off a letter, saying the plans to redevelop the McMillan site don't preserve the sprawling green views that the 25-acre site is now known for.

"Though the site has, regrettably, been fenced off over the past decades, its vast green vistas have always given us hope that the inevitable commercial development plans would honor that tradition and provide nearby neighborhoods with the myriad blessings of accessible parkland," Jim Dougherty, the chapter's conservation chair, said in a letter this month to the city Historic Preservation Review Board. "A more balanced plan for the McMillan Park site would devote half or more of the surface to contiguous park and park-like use."

The site, which has been closed to the public since the 1940s, is no longer used for water filtration but still has underground cisterns in tact. However, Anne Corbett, the development's project director, said DC Water's idea would take more work than officials seem to think and could delay the development.

Corbett declined to comment on the Sierra Club letter, which was circulated last week by neighborhood groups opposing the development.

Previous redevelopment plans have stalled, but the proposal by Envision McMillan, which includes mixed-use office and apartment buildings with ground-floor retail, townhouses and a four-acre park in the center, has drawn the support of the city.