MidCity DC: McMillan Development Plan Under Fire

Surplus Meeting Photo 2MidCity DC published the following article by Jazzy Wright in the July 2013 edition of their “Bloomingdale Bites” column:

Friends of McMillan Park – a group of community volunteers focused on preserving the history and park space of the former McMillan Sand Filtration Site – has been very vocal in the past few months. The group has directed most of its recent efforts to protecting the historical significance of McMillan, the 25-acre water treatment facility located across the street from Washington Hospital Center. More than one hundred members of the group and of the surrounding communities came out to an early June city meeting to advocate that officials reconsider selling the property to private developers. As the city mulls over declaring the land to be surplus property, making it available for sale, the Friends group is hoping that officials will maintain ownership and consider development plans that restore the property as a public park.

Right now the city is considering development plans from Vision McMillan Partners, a team of builders, engineers, and architects assembled by the city to create proposals for the filtration site. The team’s most recent proposal includes plans for townhouses, apartments, and offices. Many local activists claim that the development team’s land plans do not complement the historical significance of McMillan, which has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends group has collected more than 4,200 signatures on a petition that calls for “more creative, alternative proposals that will result in a destination worthy of this unique historic site and our nation’s capital.” The group has presented the petition to DC Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), among others. The group received a minor victory after Councilmember McDuffie released the Exclusive Rights Agreement, an agreement between the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Vision McMillan Partners.

“The Friends of McMillan Park are very grateful to Councilmember McDuffie for stepping up and aiding us with obtaining this document,” said Friends of McMillan member Kirby Vining in a press release. “We are carefully reviewing the document to fully comprehend the nature of the relationship between the District and VMP. Therefore, we cannot comment on the details on the agreement. But having this in our hands will help us prepare for future meetings on the fate of McMillan Park.” City leaders like Mayor Gray still support the VMP development plan in spite of the local pushback. The Friends group has put its support behind an alternative, the “Collage City Plan,” created by local pro bono group Collage City Studio. Friends of McMillan prefer the plan for its preservation, park creation, and re-purposing of existing below-ground historic structures.

“We show people the Collage City Studio plan to dispel the myth that the mayor’s plan is the only possible solution,” noted Hugh Youngblood, acting executive director of Friends of McMillan Park. “DMPED/VMP frequently tells people that their plan is the only possible solution.” He went on to say that “once we expose the underlying corruption in the mayor’s sole-source plan, we intend to open up this critical public project to an international design competition that will attract the most innovative designers, developers, donors, and investors on the planet.”

The Friends group will host a town hall meeting on July 27 to raise awareness about the city’s plan to privatize and demolish McMillan Park and to discuss creative alternatives.

Original publication available here:

Note: We have since rescheduled the date of the Friends of McMillan Park Town Hall Meeting to Saturday, 14 September 2013. Please update your calendar accordingly. We will convene in St. Martin’s Pioneer Room at North Capitol and T Streets NW.

McMillan Park Controversy Inspires Faulkner-based Play

Jog Provokes Bloomingdale Resident

Dark House Icon

Political activism, particularly against big real estate developments, is usually measured by numbers—how many sign a petition, demonstrate, come to a hearing, or get arrested. And while the opposition numbers are building against the District Government’s plan to destroy the historic McMillan Park Sand Filtration Site, the controversial plan has already realized one distinction—it’s inspired a serious stage-play.

Tarpley Long, a psychoanalyst and actor who lives in Bloomingdale has written Dark House, a re-imagining of William Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom! into 1960s Washington with the ruthless land developer Colonel Sutpen driven to purchase McMillan Park from the DC government and turn it back into a public park. Dark House, which opens this weekend at Capital Fringe Festival, is full of Faulkner’s mix of classism, racism, sexism, miscegenation, incest, murder, and suicide.

“I had just reread Absalom, Absalom! and was jogging by McMillan Park when the whole play downloaded in an instant,” Long says. “I want to bring Faulkner’s timeless and compelling story to today’s play-goers and readers by moving it to today’s Washington and tying to this hot political controversy.”

“We are thrilled that our efforts to save McMillan Park have inspired our neighbor, Tarpley, to be so creative,” said John Salatti of Friends of McMillan Park. “We invite everyone to see Dark House and be equally stimulated while supporting the arts in the community.”

Dark House is directed by Tracy McMullan and will be shown at the Capital Fringe venue at Fort Fringe, 612 L Street, NW (near the Convention Center) as follows: Friday, July 12: 7:15 pm, Friday, July 19: 6:15 pm, Sunday, July 21: 12:45 pm, Wednesday, July 24: 6:00 pm, Friday, July 26: 8:00 pm, and Saturday, July 27: 11:45 pm.

Learn more about Dark House on Twitter: @DarkHousePlay