Environmentalists Chide McDuffie, Gray for McMillan Park Plans

James Wright | 6/4/2014, 2:58 p.m.
D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) is being criticized by leaders of a group who wants the new McMillan ...
Courtesy of friendsofmcmillan.org

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) is being criticized by leaders of a group who wants the new McMillan Park project in Northwest to be an environmentally-friendly, historically-relevant entity.

McDuffie supports the Gray administration's plan to turn McMillan Park into a massive conglomeration of condos, office buildings, retail and restaurant outlets.

McDuffie, who is also is the council's chairman pro tem, testified May 13 before the D.C. Zoning Commission that Gray's plan will support economic development in Ward 5, saying that "for 38-39 years I've been on this Earth, the fence has cut off residents' access to the park."

Hugh Youngblood, who is active in the Friends of McMillan organization, a group that disagrees with Gray's development plans, said that McDuffie is wrong on this issue.

"Being fed-up with a chain-link fence is an insufficient excuse to bulldoze an Olmstead park listed on the National Register of Historic Places to make more room for more cookie-cutter condos and office buildings that they could build on any parking lot in the District," Youngblood said. "This ill-conceived proposal would overwhelm our neighborhoods with tens of thousands of new car trips per day and toxic air pollution. Council member McDuffie should relocate the project somewhere near the Metro and save our park."

Envision McMillan is the development team selected by the Gray administration for the new McMillan Park. The team includes such District firms as Jair Lynch Development Partners, Robert Silman Associates and real estate development giant Trammel Crow and critics of the project say that Envision McMillan's plan will build a "mini-Tysons Corner."

The zoning board will make its decision on Envision McMillan's plan later this summer.

Youngblood said that McDuffie and Gray administration officials have used extraordinary measures to mute any dissent surrounding the project.

"The multitudes who oppose the plan have been marginalized, ignored, characterized as NIMBYs [Not in My Backyard] and otherwise excluded from the process by the powers that be," he said. "The mayor even hired a PR firm from Baltimore to discredit the community."