None Dare Call It Development

None Dare Call It Development was originally published on Housing Complex on Feb. 11, 2009, at 3:28 pm

There’s more than old sand swirling around plans for the McMillan site.

On a recent Tuesday evening, about a dozen Bloomingdale-area residents gathered around a fire for wine, cheese, mini spinach pastries, and their shared desire to take down a group of D.C. developers. It was one of two strategy sessions-a pre-public meeting before a big public meeting last Saturday at Trinity University.

The subject of all this strategizing: 25 acres of green, one of the largest undeveloped parcels in the city, known as the old McMillan Sand Filtration Site. Since the mid-1980s, the land’s water filtration plant has been inactive. At least since then, the District has been deciding and re-deciding what to do with it. Different groups have lobbied for it be a museum, a library, a park, and a national memorial for dogs that died in war. In 2007, the city pulled the trigger, picking Vision McMillan Partners, a group of companies led by Bethesda-based EYA.

EYA unveiled its plans to the community in December. Artistic renderings showed grassy quads surrounded by ethereal, translucent trees, a community amphitheater, and broad corridors of retail. There would be eight acres of public green space, 1,000 to 1,200 units of mixed-income housing, and 400,000 square feet of office space, according to developers.

As the plans got passed around and republished on the Web, one resident launched a blog devoted entirely to criticizing them. There and elsewhere, the rumor mills churned; alliances and conflicts were made and aired out. It all came to resemble a season of Survivor.
Some of the conspiracy theories taking hold in Bloomingdale prove more suspect than others. This week, we’ll examine a few of them, one by one:

CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 1: Trader Joe’s is a pipe dream. The retail’s going to be cheap chicken joints.
CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 2: Developers have “plants” in the audience.
CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 3: Developers may be paying off the local ANC commissioner.
CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 4:The developers can’t finance this project.

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