Carolyn Steptoe speaks on issues affecting Ward 5 and the city at large.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Campaign Release #2

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“The McMillan site is part of a consolation package from D.C. that included $25 million in cash and $24.5 million in assorted city-owned properties around Georgia Avenue, Mount Vernon Triangle and other areas. NCRC had a Nov. 15 deadline to choose among several sites, including the St. Elizabeth's Hospital campus in Southeast, in exchange for NCRC’s prized holdings along the Washington Channel in Southwest. NCRC sent a letter to the mayor stating its selection, and at a Ward 5 meeting Nov. 13, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Eric Price publicly gave the deal a thumbs up. NCRC had been leaning toward McMillan from the beginning because the site held the greatest potential for redevelopment. Private developers share the agency’s assessment.”

- Washington Business Journal, November 19, 2004

“The city agreed in 2004 to swap the McMillan site along with $25 million in cash and $24.5 million in other scattered properties for the NCRC-controlled Southwest waterfront, which it plans to then turn over to the newly created Anacostia Waterfront Corp. Williams and his aides say the nearly 50 acres along the Washington Channel would be best redeveloped by AWC because the organization was established to revitalize the city’s waterfront. But a handful of legal issues has hamstrung the controversial transaction for at least 15 months. Transferring the McMillan site separately will allow NCRC to start work on a massive, mixed-used redevelopment now and not waste more time while the city, NCRC and AWC work to resolve legal problems on the waterfront. NCRC CEO Tony Freeman is expected to provide a general redevelopment framework for the site and provide a timeline for the project to the public March 29. The McMillan site borders Howard University on the east and North Capitol Street on the west. The site has been under the city’s control since the 1980s, but real estate experts and planner say it carries significant historic preservation challenges that will complicate redevelopment.”

- Washington Business Journal, March 27, 2006

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I attended the community meeting held by National Capital Revitalization Corporation (“NCRC”) on Wednesday, June 28, 2006 at The Catholic University of America (CUA). The purpose of the meeting was to outline NCRC’s plan for mixed-up redevelopment of the McMillan Filtration site. The McMillan site is bordered by neighborhoods such as Petworth, LeDroit Park, Bloomingdale and Brookland, hospitals (Children’s Hospital, Howard University Hospital, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Washington Hospital Center), churches, universities and the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
Based on statements by NCRC at the June 28 meeting and my own research, I do not support NCRC’s plan for mixed-use development of the McMillan site. My position is as follows:
What and Why Mixed-Use? Mixed-use development is a popular urban development concept. It focuses on creating “neighborhoods that combine compatible residential, commercial and recreational uses where residents and visitors mingle in a lively 24/7 environment, walking from offices to restaurants to shops.” Mixed-use development is usually however, associated with downtown or commercially zoned areas. The McMillan site is bordered by residential neighborhoods. The challenges then of mixed-use development of the McMillan site to Ward 5 (both pre-and post-development) run the gamut.
Foremost among these challenges is the environmental status of the McMillan site. Inasmuch as the site was used as a filtration facility for water purification, we should be certain that it does not contain any environmental contaminants. Is the soil on the McMillan site free of potentially harmful contaminants? Are there underground, corroded pipes on the site? Are there large concentrations of lead in soil? If unearthed, will toxic contaminants in the soil become potentially harmful pollutants? The community needs environmental assessments of the site prior to any development.
Additional challenges to Ward 5 associated with mixed-use development of the McMillan site include: (a) increased vehicular traffic along Michigan Avenue, North Capital and intersecting cross streets(and parking demands); (b) increased noise and air pollution; (c) increased population density and its adverse effect on the quality of life; and (d) increased demands on the city’s water and sewer services. The increased traffic, noise and pollution are of particular concern given the proximity of several major hospitals to the McMillan site.
Candidate Steptoe’s Recommendation: I recommend that NCRC redevelop the McMillan site in a manner that sensitively addresses the needs of Ward 5 residents.
Foremost among the needs of Ward 5 and, in particular, the area surrounding the McMillan site is a safe, open green space accessible to all residents. A tranquil green, open environment enhances the quality of life as well as overall physical and mental health. Currently, in Ward 5 specifically, there is limited and restricted availability to open spaces. Most Ward 5 recreation facilities are neither spacious, green nor relaxing. Therefore, I recommend that a substantial portion of the McMillan site, it not all of it, be maintained as a park, with bike and walking paths. Any development should be limited to low-density, low-to-moderate income housing.
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