For many years, residents have asked that a library be included as part of the redevelopment of the McMillan Slow Sand Filtration Plant — aka McMillan Park, 26 acres of city-owned land, at North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue, across from Children’s Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center.
On Tuesday, the DC Council extended by five years the time to complete the land disposition transfer of ownership to developer Vision McMillan Partners (VMP).
The plans proposed by VMP do not include any library, even though a library was included in the Office of Planning 2002 report of recommendations from the McMillan community planning process. In 2011, a library was highlighted as part of the redevelopment by then-Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas, Jr. And the location meets the DC Public Library criteria for siting of a new branch.
A library is a desirable amenity for any development, an economic generator and traffic builder that appeals to all generations and caters to residents from all walks of life. Libraries bridge the digital divide. They foster diversity with collections, programming, and activities for the least educated and the most. They provide safe space and space for civic engagement, as well as meeting rooms, classrooms, rooms with a view (the soon-to-open roof terrace at the new Woodridge Library).
The fact that something as positive (and publicly funded) as a library was omitted from the VMP plans, leads to the question,”What else is wrong?” LRP’s experience with the West End Library land sale makes us suspicious of the city’s land deals, which so often amount to giveaways.
It comes as no surprise to us then that DC Auditor Kathy Patterson recently identified the lack of a competitive bidding process in the selection of VMP as McMillan’s developer, contrary to best practices. Auditor Patterson laid this out in a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, wherein she also suggested that a rebid of the project was in order.
The five year extension just granted allows time to put funding for a library at McMillan into the capital budget of the DC Public Library system. However, granting the extension also indicates that the city does not think time is of the essence. Therefore, the Council could rescind the disposition deal – the land sale as yet unconsummated by developer VMP– and have it put out for rebid as the Auditor recommends.
A library would be a great thing for McMillan and should be required, but it will not solve the problems inherent in this deal.